Turbulent flow through and over vegetation continues to draw significant research attention given its relevance to a plethora of applications in earth and environmental science. Canopy flows are characterized by three-dimensional coherent vortical motions not directly accessible from single-point measurements, which pose a challenge to formalizing links between vegetation structure and turbulent motion. A joint velocity-intermittency technique is applied to velocity data collected within and above aquatic vegetation in a hydraulic flume and above a forested canopy. The approach reveals behavior that provides greater insight into canopy flow dynamics than may be inferred from the vertical profiles of mean velocity, turbulence intensity and Reynolds stresses, which are the quantities usually studied. There is a remarkable similarity in the structure of such flows between the forest canopy and the flume study despite large differences in morphology and stem rigidity. In particular, these results determine an outer flow type arising above 1.5 canopy heights, while turbulent in-rushing events are most significant at the zero-plane displacement. The approach also implies ways in which improved models for canopy turbulence may be developed.