Three little trees I take an interest in
I've been watching these three young baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) trees for several years. They grow on the shore of Kentucky Lake near the Eggner's Ferry Bridge in Land Between the Lakes*. Turn off the road at the Fenton campgrounds, follow the road to the boat docks, and you can see them too.
When our daughter was attending college at Murray, KY, I passed through Land Between the Lakes whenever I went to visit her. I first noticed these little baldcypresses when I stopped to take some photos of Kentucky Lake on a windy day in 2007. Now our son is attending Murray State University, and I stopped to see how the little baldcypresses were doing when I drove home from Murray last week.
I was happy that the little trees are much larger than the last time I last saw them. I'm a little worried about the two smaller ones, though. I don't think their needles should be changing color and getting ready to fall off already. Certainly they are deciduous trees, but it's only the middle of August. I suppose they might have some kind of blight.
I suppose this will sound crazy. After all, these are baldcypresses, and they're supposed to be able to live in water. Still, I can't help wondering if constant submersion might be affecting the health of these young trees. When I first saw them, they were growing in wet soil at the water's edge. I think they are now standing in at least two feet of water. Kentucky Lake is full this year because we've had a wet summer.
I haven't found any information that I consider reputable about the tolerance of young baldcypress for growing in water most of the time. I did learn that baldcypress seeds will sprout in contact with wet soil, but not in water. As soon as they sprout, they start growing upward at a rapid rate; they elevate their photosynthesis organs (their leaves) as quickly as possible.
I read in Floridata's article about baldcypress that it grows faster, larger, and healthier when it doesn't have to tolerate floods. However, because baldcypress seedlings can't survive in heavy shade, they are usually out-competed in moist upland forests. Thus, baldcypress is most often found at water's edge where it gets plenty of sunshine and a lot less competition, even if it doesn't thrive quite as well.
Baldcypress is famous for the knees that develop when it is grown in or near water. One theory is that the knees are pneumatophores (air roots that help the main roots with gas exchange when the tree is standing in water). Another theory is that they function as anchors to keep the tree stable in ooze and muck. Whatever the knees do, I'm sure these babies are growing some.
*Kentucky Lake (created by a dam on the Tennessee River) and Lake Barkeley (created by a dam on the Cumberland River) are two nearly parallel bodies of water. Land Between the Lakes (LBL) is the 170,000-acre, mostly wooded, inland peninsula that lies between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkeley. LBL is managed by the National Forest Service, and the dams produce TVA electricity.