Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

Replacement trees for southwest facing backyard in Austin, TX.
September 23, 2010 - The back of the house we are purchasing faces southwest and is completely devoid of large shade trees. I have been told that the previously existing trees were destroyed by oak wilt. I am in love wi...
view the full question and answer

Tree that looks like cedar elm but with smooth bark
August 09, 2014 - What tree looks like a cedar elm, but has smooth bark?
view the full question and answer

Leaf spot as indicator of Oak Wilt Disease
May 26, 2007 - I live close to the Wilflower Center. I have two trees in my front yard which are just now showing brown spots on the leaves. I fear this may be oak wilt. Would it be possible for me to bring som...
view the full question and answer

Central branches on Texas Ash have died
June 09, 2015 - I have a Texas Ash tree that was planted about 4 years ago. It seemed fine last summer and was well watered. This spring, when it started leafing out, the central branches at the upper part of the tre...
view the full question and answer

Problems with dogwood borers in TN
April 20, 2011 - What is the best way to treat native dogwoods infested with Dogwood borer insects? I have cut and removed the dead ones and the ones with large patches of bark missing but would like to save the remai...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.