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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.
- Shiva of Saint Beast spends the vast majority of his time spying on Judas from behind conveniently placed trees (and rocks, and pillars).
- 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, Timon and Pumba manage to completely conceal themselves behind a tree that's one-third Pumba'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).
- 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.
- Parodied in Beetle Bailey -- Sarge is trying to watch Beetle from hiding, but the tree can't conceal his massive girth.
- In Animal Crossing City Folk, villagers will often do this during games of hide and seek.
- 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.