The Bald Cypress and its Knobby Knees

Bald cypress may be found wild mostly in the southeastern U.S., but it was once a native plant of B.C.

Credit: Great Plant Picks

A truly cool swamp lover is the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), zone 5. Now found wild mostly in the southeastern U. S., where it is famous for its “knees” that emerge from the water’s surface, it has a surprising secret.

Bald cypress was once a native plant in B.C., leaving its needles in our fossil record. Bald cypresses, complete with knees, thrive at VanDusen Botanical Garden, as this photo of the Floating Bridge over Cypress Pond demonstrates.

If you don’t have a pond, or even a boggy garden, never mind. Bald cypress is equally happy in very dry locations once it has become established. In dry to average soils, it doesn’t develop knees – the rounded swellings that project upwards from the roots and are believed to stabilize plants against water movement – but is stunning in spring when its soft-green needles emerge and in autumn when they turn golden before falling.