Observation - Not meerkats! - UK and Ireland. Description: The 'knobbly knee' like formations produced by this tree's roots are spectacular, reminiscent of groups of petrified meerkats! This is the Swamp Cypress, Taxodium Distichum. From the Kew website: A native of the south east of the United States, perhaps t
The 'knobbly knee' like formations produced by this tree's roots are spectacular, reminiscent of groups of petrified meerkats! This is the Swamp Cypress, Taxodium Distichum. From the Kew website: "A native of the south east of the United States, perhaps the most famous home of the swamp cypress is in the Everglades of Florida. It was once indigenous to the British Isles as evidence of its presence from prehistoric times has been found near Bournemouth, on the south coast of England. In modern times, Taxodium distichum was introduced to Britain in 1640 by the famous plant hunter John Tradescant the Younger.
Its popularity as an ornamental tree was soon established and it was much in demand for planting by lakes, streams and rivers, and indeed anywhere with damp soils or access to water.
Whilst it can survive perfectly well without bodies of water nearby, it certainly thrives where it is wetter and warmer. Where the roots of the swamp cypress are submerged or in waterlogged ground, the tree will grow roots above ground known as 'knees' or pneumatophores, which can grow up to 3m but are usually much smaller.
It is thought that these knobbly roots act as snorkels by carrying supplies of air to the underground roots which may be starved of oxygen. They may also be acting as additional stabilisation for this large tree. In its native habitat Taxodium distichum can reach a height of 45m (140ft), but in Britain it rarely grows to more than 30m (100ft).
The swamp cypress is one of only a few conifers growing in Britain that sheds its foliage in winter. For this reason it is also known as the bald cypress. The needles and shoots that fall off in the autumn are fine and feathery and are at their most stunning just before they drop, when they are a fiery red colour.
Closely related to the redwoods, this tree also has stringy, fibrous bark but the wood itself is extremely durable. Unsurprisingly, it is waterproof and does not shrink, which makes it ideal for use in barrels and as window frames."