Microelectrode recordings were made in the binocular portion of the tree shrew striate cortex to determine how orientation selective cells are distributed topographically in area 17 of this species. Seventy‐five percent of the cells sampled were activated well by elongated visual stimuli and were quite selective for stimulus orientation. Ninety‐five percent of the orientation‐selective cells had orientation tuning ranges (Wilson and Sherman, '76) between ± 5° and ± 40° from their optimal orientation. Orientation‐selective cells with the same or similar optimal orientations were distributed in cortex in a columnar manner (Hubel and Wiesel, '62), as determined from electrode penetrations nearly normal to the cortical surface. Penetrations parallel to the cortical surface revealed a highly ordered representation of optimal stimulus orientation, generally characterized by sequential changes in optimal orientation with electrode movement across the striate cortex. In addition, relatively consistent differences were observed in the rates and patterns of orientation shift on these penetrations depending on the direction of electrode movement across the cortex. Penetrations parallel to the 17–18 border yielded moderate‐to‐high rates of orientation change (mean slope = 434°/mm), with the changes genearlly progressing through a complete clockwise or counterclockwise cycle of 180° or more before a major reversal in the direction of orientation shift was encountered. In contrast, penetrations perpendicular to the border yielded low‐to‐moderate slopes (mean slope = 239°/mm). On these penetrations a more limited range of optimal orientations (<180°) was usually encountered, due to frequent reversals in the direction of orientation shift. Also, extended regions (100–200 μm long) of constant optimal orientation were observed in these penetrations. The different patterns of orientation change found on these orthogonal penetrations across the striate cortex indicate that the orientation column system in this species is anisotropically organized with respect to the 17–18 border. Further, the regions of constant optimal orientation frequently encountered on penetrations perpendicular to the 17–18 border suggest that the anisotropy is subserved by a system of elongated zones of iso‐orientation arranged approximately perpendicular to the 17–18 border. Copyright © 1980 Alan R. Liss, Inc.