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News & Views

Bald Cypress knees

Jan. 7, 2019

If you stroll through the Garden's stream-side woodland in winter and look closely at the leaf litter, you may spot what looks like a gathering of prehistoric garden gnomes, gnarled and brown, clustered at the water's edge.  These aren't gnomes, though, but knees: Bald Cypress knees.  These odd, woody  protuberances are commonly found on the roots of Bald Cypresses growing in wet soils.  No one is quite certain why they form, but the consensus is that they help anchor the big trees--which may reach 100'--in their native southeastern swamps.  It is a fact that Bald Cypresses grown in drier soils don't form knees, but rely solely on their elegantly buttressed trunks for wind resistance. 

Whatever the reason for them, careful observation will reveal dozens of the weirdly contorted shapes poking up through the dead leaves in the mucky soil.  Although the Tawes Garden Bald Cypresses are no more than 40 years old, their knees manage to conjure up a sense of ancient, mysterious groves that might once have stood on this very spot.

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