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 unfolding 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. Occasionally utilized by a naked person trapped outside, for obvious reasons. 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.
- In Episode 6 of Chivalry of a Failed Knight, Ayase Ayatsuji tries doing a mix between this and Mobile Shrubbery with varying degrees of success. Stella and Shizuka don't notice until it's pointed out by Alice who had spotted her a week earlier. Ikki also noticed that he was being followed.
- In the Hatoful Boyfriend manga Yuuya shadows Shuu like this.
- Shiva of Saint Beast spends the vast majority of his time spying on Judas from behind conveniently placed trees (and rocks, and pillars).
- In Asterix, the characters hide in bushes or behind trees (or up them) a lot, especially the Roman legionnaires.
- In Asterix and the Big Fight, a soldier was forced to spy on the Gauls disguised as a tree (dressing a natural one!). Not only an owl gets fond of his disguise, but Asterix and Obelix find him out and capture the poor man to use him as a Guinea Pig for the potions of an amnesiac Getafix.
- In Asterix and the Roman Agent, a group of legionnaires hurriedly hides up a tree when they hear Geriatrix and Fulliautomatix approaching. Unluckily, their hiding had a wasp nest, so they were forced to put up with wasp bites until the Gauls were gone.
- Batman: In Spoiler's first appearance, Robin skateboarded to her house and then slipped behind and hung out in a tree across the street to keep an eye on it as he and Batman were trying to discover who had been visiting her father Clumaster in prison before he was paroled. She is quite annoyed to learn that they think she might be involved in his latest scheme when she runs into Robin on her way to go foil her dad's latest scheme.
- In The Last Adventure, Discord happens to stand behind a tree when he sees a stallion showing an engagement ring to Fluttershy. Furious, he shows up "casually" for them, learning that the stallion was just asking Fluttershy's opinion about the ring he bought for somepony else. Embarassed, Discord teleports behind the tree again and decides to wait until the intruder goes away, so he'll confess his feelings to Fluttershy... until he hears the stallion calling him a monster,just like many others did before. Hurt and tired of dealing with ponies' prejudice, Discord storms off and doesn't get to hear Fluttershy angrily defending him.
- At one point in Disney High, Pocahontas is hiding in a tree to listen in on John Smith.
- In The Witch of the Everfree, Cadance tries to surreptitiously watch Twilight and Sunset's Ship Tease moment from a tree branch. Then she accidentally rustles it, killing the moment.
- Sunset accidentally teleports herself into the branches of the Ponyville library when she sees Celestia's guards arriving in Ponyville, and proceeds to curl into a ball and hope the guards don't notice her.
- In Beauty and the Beast, Le Fou and Gaston hide behind a bush to look at Belle's house, before they'll return to the wedding party that Gaston set up before proposing to her.
- 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 Bug Off!, Yendor hides from the kids in one of the trees in their front yard.
- In Eskimo Day, an anxious mother spies on her son Malcolm by hiding behind trees and other objects, as he travels to Cambridge for his interview.
- In Johnny Lingo, Mahana is regularly found hiding in the trees.
- She continues to do so in The Legend of Johnny Lingo, in order to spy on the titular character.
- Jumpin' Jack Flash. When Terry goes to the British embassy, she tries to hide behind a potted plant while passing on the message from their spy, which of course only makes her look more conspicuous.
- One movie version of Romeo and Juliet has Romeo in a tree outside Juliet's room. This leads into the famous balcony scene.
- 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.
- A Description of the Northern Peoples narrates how Swedish farmers that went into guerrilla warfare would cut trees along forest roads until they were halfway down, then tie ropes around them, and when your standard German or Danish knightly army comes along, the Swedes would pull the trees down and then let loose with slings, crossbows and throwing spears from behind their new battlements. This was described as a "Bråte", and the word remains in the Swedish language today, though it now means "junk" or "mess."
- The Famous Five: When spying on and stalking villains, the Five often hide behind trees, up trees, and in the middle of prickly gorse bushes. In Five get into Trouble, Anne happens to be up a tree overhead when Dick is captured.
- The Killer Angels (and the film adaptation Gettysburg). General Pickett amuses his fellow officers with a tale of how he witnessed a long line of soldiers taking shelter from artilery fire behind a single tree, and how the line would sway from one side or the other every time a cannonball shot past.
- Played realistically and justified in Ranger's Apprentice, where the Rangers use camouflage cloaks and the shadows to blend in with the surroundings. The cloaks work best, obviously, amongst trees and foliage.
- In "A View to a Kill" part of For Your Eyes Only, Ian Fleming described spy outposts in the NATO territory that consisted of a fake shrub covering up the shaft leading to an underground chamber, complete with periscope.
- 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.
- Used all the time whenever someone is sneaking around in Winnetou. There are the occasional subversions, in that not all trees are actually wide enough to hide a man's body, and other cover options must be found. Also useful when someone shoots at you. Most significantly, a tree saves Old Shatterhand's life in "Winnetou III", when a surprise encounter in the woods with an unseen foe leaves him a bit defenseless. Luckily, the shooter turns out to be Winnetou, and everyone makes it out unharmed.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: Rather harshly demonstrated in "How Not to Be Seen."
Announcer: Mr. Bradshaw, will you stand up please?
(Bradshaw stands, is immediately shot dead.)
Announcer: This demonstrates the value of not being seen.
- Played for Drama in Person of Interest when Harold Finch witnesses Sameen Shaw carrying out her first assassination. As Finch tries to sneak off, he steps on a twig and freezes in place. Fortunately, he's behind a tree so when Shaw turns to look, she doesn't see anyone.
- Parodied in Beetle Bailey — Sarge is trying to watch Beetle from hiding, but the tree can't conceal his massive girth.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Animal Crossing: City Folk and New Leaf, villagers will often do this during games of hide-and-seek.
- Maps in Contract Wars are abundant with various bushes, both high and low. Learning to use them is essential as the maps often have long sight lines from one end to another. Amusingly, hiding in the same bushes as your enemy is the situation that happen distressingly often because of both this trope and how default uniform blended so well with environment.
- The "child" protagonist at the start of Darkborn is small enough to be completely covered by grass and ferns.
- There are islands in Deeeep.io, and they'll often have trees. Seagulls can literally hide in the canopy, and so can snakes (which is entirely possible in real life.)
- In a broader sense, several other, mostly underwater objects can also be used as static cover. Tree Beavers and Ducks can hide in beaver dams. and all but the Tier 10 animals can hide inside the Shipwreck and the Abandoned House.
- 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.
- Going into a bush in FlyOrDie.io will completely hide you, and make your nametag and health bar disappear for as long as you are completely inside it. Same thing happens if you fly into a cloud and stay there.
- In Foes.io, the bushes hide the player and make their health bar invisible. However, the bush will start to shiver when someone is inside one. That, and it's still not large enough to conceal long-barelled firearms.
- Plastech facilities in Invisible, Inc. sometimes have trees, to fit with their spa/monastery theme. They make an effective cover, despite most of their squares consisting of grass.
- In Thelast.io, the yellowish bushes substantially obscure the player inside them from the other players.
- Link has to use these in Oracle of Seasons in order to sneak up to two Subrosians.
- In Love & War, Lavie makes use of this to listen to Ryan and Marianne's conversation in Davenport Park.
- In Of Guards And Thieves, the Thieves can hide in bushes to avoid being seen by the guards. Of course, the Guards can pull the same trick to get the drop on the Thieves...
- In Phantom: Covert Ops, the player spends the entire game travelling waterways on a kayak, and can hide from the patrols within reeds.
- Done in two stages in Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure, "Sneaking and Entering" and "To the Manor Borne". In both cases, Raphael has to enter a heavily guarded mansion and hide behind shrubbery trimmed to resemble dancers, assuming the same poses as they do to not get caught by the guards. A variant where Raphael hides behind statues in The Louvre is the focus of two other stages, "Looting the Louvre" and "Looting the Louvre Redux".
- In the last level of Shaun the Sheep: Home Sheep Home 2: Lost in London, the sheep (average Shaun, large Shirley and tiny Timmy) have to get past a sweeping security camera. Luckily, there are two trees either side of the area the camera checks, each trimmed into three rough ovals of different sizes...
- The Sniper on the map "Panopticon" in SpyParty appears to be hidden inside a giant tree in the center of the map.
- In Surviv.io, the circular shrubs will conceal the player who goes inside them, with only a very thin outline barely visible through the lighter foliage. However, weapons substantially longer than pistols will poke out a little regardless, though this can be mitigated by switching to grenades (since melee weapons like axes will also stick out.) The largest military backpack will also stick out somewhat, though only highly attentive players will spot that. Also, consuming healing items will still produce the tell-tale red/green indicators, along with the sound that'll be heard by those in the immediate vicinity.
- When indoors, potted plants are the equivalents to the shrubs. However, tables provide more reliable concealment, due to their much larger surface area.
- Then, some players will simply shoot at the bushes and/or tables just to be sure. A trickier, but often safer way to hide is instead to find two-three trees that are so close to each other that their foliage intersects, creating darker zones that make it impossible to spot the players standing underneath them.
- When indoors, potted plants are the equivalents to the shrubs. However, tables provide more reliable concealment, due to their much larger surface area.
- In Untitled Goose Game, the goose is small enough to be completely covered by the hedges, from which it can then emerge to dramatically surprise the human.
- In World of Tanks, parking a tank behind a bush or tree makes it harder to spot than if it's out in the open. Training the Camouflage and Green Thumb skills on your crew improves how effective this is.
- XCOM 2: Due to how concealment worksnote and XCOM deploying from the wilderness when assaulting facilities, during most approaches, your soldiers will be perfectly hidden behind tree trunks barely wide enough to hide their torsos, even if the enemy's close enough to see the whites of their eyes. It's even more ridiculous with Reapers, the stealth-based faction in War of the Chosen: if the Reaper didn't bring any attention to themself, the enemy has to be within two meters of them in addition to being in the same side as the Reaper's cover to spot them.
- 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).
- During a game of FailRace's Survive The Hunt, Alex, the hunted, is on foot and takes cover within the branches of a pine tree. The entire pack of hunters loses track of him, even though at least two of them pass within mere feet of where he's standing.
- 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.
- Many Looney Tunes episodes. Spoofed by having one character dig a tunnel out of prison, emerge in apparent jungle foliage and creep from one plant to the next until it turns out he's actually sneaking through the indoor plants in the warden's office.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Breakup Breakdown", Spike and Discord hide twice in an absurdly humungous bush in full square to not be noticed by Sugar Belle, because Spike suspects she is making a Heart and Hooves day surprise for Big Mac (Incredibly, nopony elses seems to notice them, maybe because they are to busy about the event or because nothing surprises them, coming from Discord). In the second time, Big Mac joins the two, just to hear Sugar Belle telling Mrs. Baker that "it's all over". The three think that she is going to dump Big Mac, leaving the poor red stallion in tears.
- My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "Fugitive Flowers, Part 2", 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.
- The Simpsons: Sideshow Bob hides behind a potted palm, whose fronds perfectly conceal his distinctive hair.
- If you've ever played "Hide and Go Seek", "Camouflage" 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, namely being Crazy Enough to Work as a sniping post during the first few shots, the impracticability of the place hurt chances for an escape if the shooter was discovered, which he often was precisely because the recoil of the rifle disturbed the leaves of the tree and gave away his position. Then again, this was a risk attributed to the eccentricities of the Japanese military system.
- 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.
- Dogs will sometimes hide behind nearby trees when playing fetch.