I was given a gift of waiting yesterday. When I finished a medical appointment I waited outside for my kind daughter in law to finish a meeting of her own and come back to drive me. Our mid October weather was refreshing, perfect for walking. Most hospitals have landscaped outside areas, many changed out with annuals seasonally. But years ago, some wise plan included a group of Bald Cypress trees where I walked. Since I was on a sidewalk at the edge of a parking area where the trees are planted on a sloping lawn, it was easy to admire the shape of tree and the grace of drooping foliage.
I noticed the ground near my walkway was dotted with odd cylindrical shapes I recognized as Cypress knees. They had been sliced off even with the ground so that the inside was exposed as a cross section. This left dozens of them, scattered randomly beyond the tree nearest me, an art gallery on the ground! The photograph above is only one of many I took, every one beautifully unique. A few fragments of grass and cypress needles garnished each whorled creation, a palette of cream and bronze and browns.
We once planted one of these trees in our yard, recommended by a gardening friend as one of the most underrated trees in our area. It did not grow knees, but structures can emerge from the root system that allow adaptation to wet sites. The knees I saw yesterday were on the down side of a slope, even emerging on the other side of a sidewalk. I wondered if slicing them off endangered the trees, so I read more about them.
I found that this tree grows slowly for about 200 years, growing up to 150 feet tall and it usually lives for 600 years. Some are said to survive for over 1000 years. Like our beloved Oak Trees, generations pass under their branches.
The answer to my question? Unlike broad-leafed trees, the cypress won’t send up new root sprouts from the wound. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, carefully trimming the knees will not harm the tree. In this case, it provides beauty for anyone who stops to notice, possibly thousands passing by on the way to a hospital room or a doctor’s office. I am grateful for a season in time and life to walk, to wait, and to pay attention. You see, I have been to this place many times, but this is the first time I walked, waited, and paid attention.