In fiction, if a character has to spy on another for any reason, the go-to hiding place is behind the nearest plant life. Despite all probability there will always be a sizable tree in a convenient location that the character can use at leisure to eavesdrop or gaze on the enfolding scene. The majority of the time the tree will do the trick and the spied-upon characters are none the wiser about the suspicious person periodically peeking their head around the nearest shrubbery, unless Rule of Funny applies in the onlooker being caught. This trope is very prominent in cartoons, where characters often hide behind trees that are thinner than they are. Not so much Truth in Television, given the many practical limitations. For instances when the onlooker brings a fake tree as a screen with them, it's Mobile Shrubbery. Differs from Behind the Black in that the characters aren't invisible, just well hidden in an unlikely place. See also Behind a Stick for comic variants.
Examples:Anime and Manga
- Shiva of Saint Beast spends the vast majority of his time spying on Judas from behind conveniently placed trees (and rocks, and pillars).
- In the Hatoful Boyfriend manga Yuuya shadows Shuu like this.
- One movie version of Romeo and Juliet has Romeo in a tree outside Juliet's room. This leads into the famous balcony scene.
- In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Timon and Pumbaa manage to completely conceal themselves behind a tree that's one-third Pumbaa's width.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the title character employs this to spy on the woman of his dreams and her new boyfriend (who is also his arch-nemesis).
- Used by the killer in the first Scary Movie, to parody the Stealth Hi/Bye.
- This trope crops up in the Aunt Dimity series from time to time. Sometimes it's used for comic effect, sometimes not,
- It is revealed late in Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea that Abaddon camps out in the cottage's hedgerow to directly spy on Bill's family. Lori and Bill discuss removing the hedges for safety's sake, but ultimately decide against it.
- In Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree, Raiiney Dawson hides in the bushes near Willis Sr.'s house during the housewarming party. When Lori goes outside for a breath of air, Rainey takes her by surprise. Rainey came there to secretly enlist her aid for her grandmother Sally Pyne, whose tall tales have caught up with her.
- In Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince, Lori and Bree Pym are leaving Tappan Hall after being told Lady Barbara is just back from hospital and too ill to receive visitors when Barb herself hisses at them from her hiding place in the bushes. She's violating doctor's orders by being out of her specially-fitted bedroom (no dusty books and no ashy fires), and she invites Lori and Bree into her book-filled study, leading the way with her oxygen tank in tow.
- Warrior Cats: In The Sun Trail, the first book of the Dawn of the Clans arc, Gray Wing finds a cat hiding in a clump of bracken he had just walked by. This is very embarrassing for him, as he had just been berating his nephew Jagged Peak for claiming they were being watched.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: "How not to be seen."
- One story arc on Peanuts has Charlie Brown hiding behind a tree in front of the home of the Little Red-Haired Girl, trying to muster up enough courage to knock on her door and talk to her.
- Calvin does this a lot, mostly to Suzie. More justifiable than other examples as he's only six years old and therefore small enough to pull it off.
- Parodied in Beetle Bailey — Sarge is trying to watch Beetle from hiding, but the tree can't conceal his massive girth.
- Similar to the Beetle Bailey example above, Garfield and Jon were playing Hide and Seek, but Jon quickly spotted Garfield's stomach hanging out from the front of the tree he was hiding behind.
Garfield: I gotta get on a diet.
- In Animal Crossing City Folk, villagers will often do this during games of hide and seek.
- Link has to use these in Oracle of Seasons in order to sneak up to two Subrosians.
- Treant Protector in Dota 2 has the skill Nature's Guise, which turns Treant or his allies invisible when they're close by trees. In Treant's case, he can cast spells without breaking invisibility.
- Many Looney Tunes episodes
- In the Ben 10 episode "The Visitor", Ben eavesdrops on Max and Xylene by turning into his planty form Wildvine and merging with the tree.
- Sideshow Bob hides behind a potted palm, whose fronds perfectly conceal his distinctive hair.
- My Little Pony, "Fugitive Flowers": Masquerade camouflages herself and hides behind some bushes in Posey's garden to eavesdrop on the Flores, just in time for them to reveal their sinister true intentions of leaching all the life from Ponyland's soil.
- If you've ever played "Hide and Go Seek", "Comouflage" or any other game where you must quickly find a hiding spot in a forest, you'll find that this is never a bad decision. Unless, of course, you misjudge your own width relative to the tree in question.
- Japanese snipers in World War II used to use the tops of trees for concealment. While this had short-term advantages, it hurt chances for an escape, a risk that has been attributed to the eccentricities of the Japanese military system. That is all very well but snipers are often highly-trained assets making this rather an overextention of Honor Before Reason.
- As shown in this training film from WWII, this doesn't always work where firearms are concerned; sufficiently powerful rounds can often go right through a tree, though it depends on the round, and the type and thickness of a tree.