Contact Us Host an Event 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

Live Oak Mess in Liberty, TX
April 09, 2015 - Should I leave the pollination debris that has fallen from my 3 historic live oaks on the ground surface beneath them or use a leaf blower to remove.
view the full question and answer

Sap dripping from a lacey oaks in San Antonio
September 06, 2012 - I have a lacey oak tree, approximately 6 ft. tall that has been in the ground almost a year. The tree looks healthy but there is a small area on the trunk that looks and feels wet. The substance is s...
view the full question and answer

Seed germination for sugar maple (Acer saccharum)
December 15, 2007 - How can I germinate sugar maple?(step by step, please) I have some seeds but can't make them grow directly outside, so could you recommend a method which takes place inside?! I've heard something ab...
view the full question and answer

Trees for privacy in NY
March 17, 2011 - I am looking for trees native to New York that I can plant in front of my backyard fence that is six feet tall that will not hide my fence or overshadow my east facing garden beds and plants underneat...
view the full question and answer

Space between trees from Blythewood SC
April 05, 2013 - I'm planting 4 green giants in a back corner of my yard. I also have a kumquat tree to plant. I have somewhat limited space. What is the minimum spacing between the four green giants and the green gi...
view the full question and answer

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