The bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) is a distinctive and much pictured tree of the wetlands of the Southeastern United States. Many of these stately trees form "knees," which are extensions of the root system that attach to the trunk of the tree.
The knees do not form on all bald cypress trees, but only on those that grow in standing water. Generally speaking, the knees are thought to develop to help the plant deal with long-term survival in an aquatic or swampy environment.
One theory about the formation of the knees, is that they develop to help absorb oxygen into the plant through the roots. However, since the exact scientific process is not completely understood, more study is needed to better comprehend the function of the knees.
The knees also acts to help support the tree, especially when it spends its entire life cycle in standing water. The woody structure of the knees can act as braces to stabilize the tree against wind damage and also to keep the watery environment from undermining the whole plant.
Most sources seem to place the knees as part of the root system, even though they can act to embrace the structural support of the tree.
The knees of the bald cypress are not of much economic value except as use in small craft projects like making birdhouses and beehives.
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