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Bald Cypress Bonsai Knees

Still A Mystery

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.

One Man's Story About
Bald Cypress Bonsai Knees

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.



Where to Go From Here

main Bald Cypress Bonsai Page

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