Friday 7 March 2014

Cypress Knees

     Cypress trees are usually associated with swamps in the southern part of the US, I am not sure if they were native to Indiana or not, but in the late 1960's and early 70's, the Indiana forestry department did make young cypress seedling available to landowners who wanted them, and my father took advantage of the offer, and planted some of the seedlings around the moist and wet areas on our property.  Many of those have now grown and turned into tall mature trees, one of which juts up  in my sister's back yard.
     I was walking around my uncle's lake yesterday, and noticed a cypress tree along the shoreline.  I don't know if my father had given him the tree, or whether he got some independently, but there was a healthy cypress growing beside the water.
     One of the unique and mysterious characteristics of the cypress, is its "knees."  They are rounded wooden projections that erupt out of the ground (or water) around the base of the tree.  Scientist are still mystified at them, and do not know what purpose they serve.  It was commonly thought that they provided oxygen for the tree, which often grows in the often oxygen-depleted wet soil, but research has shown this is not the case.  
     Early explorers of North America recorded cypress knees that were sometimes 10 feet (3 m) tall, but the ones around here only stick up about a foot (30 cm) or so above the ground.  The knees often have interesting gnarly shapes and I have seen them used as the base of table lamps.

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