Along the slopes of the Sierra west of Lake Tahoe, several oddly symmetrical groups of trees rise from the middle of the forest. Shaped like wagon wheels, they are known as nelder plots and were planted in the 1990s as part of a study at the Blodgett Forest Research Station.

A nelder plot at Blodgett Forest.

Miranda Leconte

The aim was to glean insights into resource competition among trees, said John A. Helms, a silviculturist involved in the project. "It's a little bit like putting rats in a cage or people in a tight suburban environment," he told the Sun. "People behave differently when they're jammed together."

To visitors viewing the plots at ground level, the trees appear little different than the surrounding forest. Send up a drone, however, and their full magnificence comes into view.

A few more pictures. 👉 I Love the Sierra

Also, a great drone's-eye view rising up from a plot. 👉 @mirandaleconte

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