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?

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
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
3 ratings

Tuesday - June 22, 2010

From: Spring, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Trees
Title: Bald cypress causing problems in Spring TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

There is a 50+ ft Bald Cypress growing near my property line. While the tree has grown substantial knees along the driveway and some as far as 35 ft from the tree in my flower beds, I do not see any damage to my concrete slab driveway. My neighbor wants the tree cut because they think the tree is damaging their slab driveway. Granted the tree does have numerous knees near their driveway that interfere with mowing their grass border. Has the Bald Cypress been known to cause damage to slab driveways? Is there a way to stop the knees growing in the neighbors yard? If worst case comes and I'm told to cut the tree, what happens to the stump, knees, and root system? How long will it take to rot out or will the neighbor need to dig up his lawn to get rid of the knees?

ANSWER:

Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) is noted for its "knees" which appear in poorly drained situations. That is why it can survive at the edges of waterways and in planting spaces in parking lots, because the knees keep it from suffocating. It is native to the Harris County area and can grow at a moderately fast rate to 50 to 75 ft. tall.

From the USDA Forest Service website Baldcypress, we extracted this line about the tree's propensity to lift sidewalks:

"Surprisingly, the roots do not appear to lift sidewalks and curbs as readily as some other species."

That is probably not going to impress your neighbor, and as the tree gets bigger, it could still cause damage. From your description, it sounds like the knees are far and wide in both yards. Another quotation from the same article:

"Baldcypress can also be grown in dry locations and makes an attractive lawn, street, or shade tree. Cypress knees do not generally form on these drier sites.

Another website you might want to look at is Floridata, Taxodium distichum, from which we drew this quotation (the emphasis is ours). 

"Bald-cypress makes a fine specimen tree for very large landscapes. They are best suited to wet areas, lake margins, and the like, but as noted above, they will thrive in normal, even dry soils. The feathery pale green foliage is attractive in spring and summer, and again in fall when it turns reddish. A nice shade tree in summer, bald-cypress lets the sun shine through in winter." 

That would seem to be it in a nutshell, it's a lovely tree, grows well in wet or dry soils, but it needs a much bigger territory than you and your neighbor appear to have. We really have no idea what the legal requirements would be under these circumstances, and your resolution probably depends on how well you get along with your neighbor. The tree isn't going to get any smaller, and it can live to be 500 years old. We have a feeling the roots are going to need grinding, and it probably will mess up the neighbor's lawn. We recommend you contact a trained, licensed arborist and get his opinion on what needs to be done, perhaps sharing that information with your neighbor, and together decide what to do.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

 

 

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Hybrid Campsis radicans 'Madame Rosy' from Medina OH
July 07, 2012 - I have a Madame Rosy Campsis that is not blooming. We purchased and planted it last year, mid-summer and it did well for the remainder of the season but this year...nothing but green leaves........wh...
view the full question and answer

Percentage of plants native to U.S.
June 22, 2007 - About 50% of the plant species in Hawaii are naturalized, invasive, aliens (from other places). What are equivalent statistics for the lower 48 states (continental US) as a whole?
view the full question and answer

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
July 02, 2014 - Foxglove (digitalis purpurea) is not a native U.S. plant. It was introduced to the U.S. from Europe and is now considered invasive in many parts of the western U.S. It invades our forested wild land...
view the full question and answer

Problems with recently planted trumpet vine from Worcester MA
October 20, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a question about my recently planted Trumpet Vines. First of all, I live in Massachusetts, zone 6. The soil is perfect for the two vines, which I bought from a local nur...
view the full question and answer

Removal of non-native invasive Ligustrum japonica from Austin
February 14, 2012 - I bought a house that I am slowly turning into a native garden, but as a teacher, I have a really small budget. One entire border of my backyard (30 feet) was planted with evil Ligustrum japonica. I l...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center