En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - September 14, 2009

From: Thibodaux , LA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Plants beneath native bald cypress trees in Thibodaux LA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a bed that needs to be revamped and it has two beautiful 18 year old Bald cypress trees. I would like to work the soil and plant some appropriate shade tolerant plants. How do I work the soil with the roots and knees, without hurting the trees?


To be perfectly honest with you, we wouldn't. The "knees" develop mostly in poorly drained situations, since the tree is adapted to being an aquatic plant. The knees are useful in an exchange of gases and take in oxygen in a low-oxygen environment. This tree can live to be BIG and OLD, and like the gorilla in the house, needs to be able to put its roots anywhere it wants to. In an area like Lafourche Parish, where you are in Louisiana, two very important functions of the roots on a Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) are that the tree is not susceptible to suffocation, so it can withstand flooding, and also for support. This tree is rarely blown over, even in hurricanes. We would recommend mulching the bed where the bald cypresses are, and going farther out to plant grasses or garden plants. Besides being very utilitarian, we think the knees on the trees are an interesting feature of a wonderful tree. 

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum



More Trees Questions

Ornamental grasses under desert willows from Dallas, TX
September 06, 2013 - I am planning on planting 3 desert willows in full sun, below the power lines at the back of my back yard in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. I would like to plant some ornamental grasses in the be...
view the full question and answer

Native tree for cemetery in Western Oklahoma
May 06, 2009 - My siblings and I are wanting to plant a tree next to my Mother's grave at the cemetery. It is in Western Oklahoma so hot sun and constant high wind are both considerations to choosing the right tree...
view the full question and answer

Apple trees for Dothan, AL
April 01, 2009 - I would like to plant early, mid and late season apple trees in my area Dothan Al.What types can I plant that will help pollinate each other? I have plenty of room and planting some crabapples trees w...
view the full question and answer

Seeds or seedlings of Texas madrone (Arbutus xalapensis)
January 03, 2009 - Where can I obtain seeds or seedlings of the "Texas Madrone" tree? Thank You.
view the full question and answer

Watering newly-planted Afghan Pines
May 11, 2015 - I just planted some Afghan pines in Amarillo, tx (avg. rainfall about 2O in. Per year) What would be the appropriate amount of water and how often would I need to water during this time.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center