Cypress knees are woody projections that form off of the normal roots of cypress trees. Their function remains unknown, despite many hypotheses.
One such thought is they are a form of support, as they are most often found around trees in swamp lands. Cypress growing inland rarely have them.
A walk in the Florida Everglades has many examples.
You may have read the main Bald cypress bonsai page ... this page is about a Taxodium distichum that caught my eye at the Marion County Bonsai Society in Ocala, FL. I was there to give a 'critique.'
Members brought their trees for sharing and suggestions. We discussed several very nice specimens and their potential as good bonsai. Then came the cypress bonsai with "knees” … lots of them.
What I saw these bald cypress knees it was not exactly what you see in the nature, but they were on their way. I had to ask how the knees got started.
The owner, Ronald Weiss was more than willing to share his technique. He explained that his “cypress is a work in progress,” and went on to give details.
His bald cypress bonsai is being styled after a specimen tree near the entrance of the 'Silver Springs' attraction in Central Florida.
"My tree was purchased in 1995, and was ten feet tall at the time. I topped it at the nursery, no taper."
Photo to the right shows a scar from the original cut. (Placed in the back, so it doesn't show).
"Then there were no branches, trunk only. I allowed several loss leaders to fatten the base. It continued to develop.
I started making the bald cypress knees about seven years ago. I skipped an annual re-potting so I would have long heavy roots to work with. During repotting, all the roots are visible.
It's then easy to select the best for potential knees. I tie the roots together with wire into hair pin design. With roots that are long enough, I make two knees each."
"Always make extra faux knees; not all the knees will thicken or survive. At first, plant the entire root below the soil surface.
Don’t try to expose the new knees in the beginning. I remove extra
knees that don’t fatten or are not necessary."
Time will determine which knees on Ron's bonsai are best and which are best placed. When I asked Ron where he learned this technique, he told me: “I had never seen it done, this was just an experiment.” What an experiment! Admittedly it is a long, slow process.