Planting trees with knees!

I’ve written before about local attempts to maintain the biodiversity of the Indian River Lagoon. One such effort has been the Arbor Day Project, started in 2008 by Brenda Davis of the Soil and Water Conservation District. The goal of the program is to retrofit urban storm-water retention ponds by planting 100 bald cyprus trees in 5 different subdivisions each year.  Planting trees along these shorelines boosts the ponds’ ability to clear fertilizer-runoff and other toxins from neighborhood water before it flows through the canals and into the lagoon.  Brenda and I were in the same certification training class, so when she asked for tree planting volunteers, I was happy to oblige.

On Friday, we reported to Mandarin Lake in Citrus Springs, ready to work!

Mandarin Lake, Citrus Springs, Vero Beach

Mandarin Lake at Citrus Springs, Vero Beach pic 2

Look at all the Cypress trees!

The bald cypress is perfect for this situation. Native to the area, it thrives in swamps and wetlands…and what is Florida, if not one big, barely-above-sea-level, landfilled swamp!?! 😉

We spaced the trees roughly 10 feet apart, as close to the waterline as possible, digging holes twice as wide as the depth of the rootball to leave adequate “spreading” room.  As you can see, the first few went in nicely! 🙂

Three Bald Cypress, newly planted

Bald Cypress, tilting badly!

This one, not so much! 🙄

Hopefully, in time it will straighten out, but I didn’t share this photo strictly for comic relief ➡ note the sapling’s placement in standing water; cypress thrive in this setting!  When our crooked specimen matures, tapered “knees” will grow vertically from the roots until they appear snorkel-like above the high water mark, but this is where the breathing analogy ends.  Although no one is absolutely certain, scientists now theorize the knees serve as basal stabilizing struts against the wind and “electrical” damage of hurricanes and tropical storms.  When a bald-cypress is stuck by lightning, the torturous root/knee structure protects the tree from a direct air to ground hit; it may explode at the point of impact, but eventually re-grows from the damaged trunk!!  Wow! Score one for evolution, yeah?!

While I wouldn’t say planting trees was “fun” 😉 I definitely enjoyed learning new horticultural “facts” and helping out a worthy cause!  And of course, I found a stunning flowering vine growing rampant in the Citrus Springs meadow!! I snagged several lengths (with good roots!!) to “re-home” along my back fence!

Here’s a picture of the flower, but what struck me most was the beauty of the vine’s 5-lobed palmate leaf structure and it’s ability to creep along the ground!

Cairo Morning Glory

“You will rue the day you took that home! I’ll have to hack you out with a machete” said Brenda 🙂

Until next time…



6 thoughts on “Planting trees with knees!

  1. Fantastic and fascinating – that the trees help clean the water, and have knees. It’s a win-win. And good on you for volunteering, it sounds like such a positive thing to do! Hope you have a great gardening week 🙂

  2. Karen, I’m going to buy that machete to get you out of the house once that vine takes over!!

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