Bald cypress trees flourish in the southern US. Thick stands of these trees grow in marshy areas, floodplains, and along streams and rivers. Thick roots grow from the lower trunk, above ground. The roots sink into the earth to firmly anchor the tree. With their strong support, a bald cypress can stand through a hurricane! In habitats where they grow, bald cypresses are important. Many animals rely on them for shelter and food. Spanish moss dangles from their branches. Ospreys and bald eagles build nests in the spreading canopies of old bald cypress trees.
The tree’s knees
Where bald cypresses grow in water or marshy ground, they push up cone-shaped “knees” above the water. These knobby knees grow from the tree’s large root system. Knees can be up to three feet tall. No one is sure how knees help a bald cypress, but they do help the habitat—by trapping soil and silt. Bald cypresses will also grow on higher ground, away from water, but those trees don’t grow knees.
Male or female
Bald cypresses are conifers. Male trees produce cones that bear pollen. Male cones are tiny, but they grow together in long, drooping clusters. Female trees produce cherry-sized, round female cones. Wind carries pollen from a male tree to a cone on a female tree—fertilizing a seed that can grow a new tree.