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The cypress marsh between Hammond and Garner roads is a rare gem of nature inside the beltline. This area has had deep-water conditions for long enough that wetland plants have naturally colonized and established themselves. In the middle of the marsh is a stand of bald cypress, Taxodium distichum. Bald cypress is more typically found in the coastal plain of North Carolina, it is unusual to find natural cypress trees as far west as Raleigh. Our local cypress stand consists of 18 trunks about 40 to 50 years old clumped around the center of the marsh. The stand seems to be healthy and self-sustaining since there are young cypress saplings present. Here you can see a willow and cypress seedling and a cypress seedling and loblolly pines in the background.
Bald cypress trees have many unique characteristics. It is one of the few cone bearing trees, (coniferous), having needles like pine and spruce, but also loosing its leaves each fall like oak and maple trees. Note in the photos below that many of the cypress needles have already fallen off. Since cypress trees grow in standing water they have specialized structures to support themselves in soggy soil. The bases of their trunks are wide and buttressed. Here's a small grass plant making use of the wide cypress buttress to grow on.
Cypress trees also have mysterious looking structures that grow up from their roots, usually a few feet away from the trunk. Known as cypress knees, these structures rise above the water surface and have rounded tips. Even after much research, scientists still debate the purpose of cypress knees. A theory exists that the knees help with the transfer of carbon dioxide and oxygen (gas exchange). However, it is likely that knees add structural support to the tree in its habitat of marshy soils.
Around the edges of the marsh are the shrubby black willow trees Salix nigra. Black willow is known for its feathery appearance and reddish fall stem color. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, with its distinctive ball like flowers is also present. Smartweed, Polygonum densifolium, can be seen easily with its low arching branches and its rust color. Woolgrass, Scirpus cyperinus, an herbaceous plant in the sedge family has multiple stalks that rise 4 to 5 feet with hanging fluffy flowers. Some plants grow directly in the water of the cypress marsh such as Arrow arum, Peltandra virginica whose green, marble like seeds provide food for water birds. The vegetative parts of the soft rush, Juncus effusus are eaten by muskrats and birds, too.
Numerous species of wildlife call this
local wetland home. Evidence of beavers is seen in the chewed-up willow
trunks. Beavers have a unique way of chewing on woody plants; their teeth
marks leave rounded and curved cut marks on stumps. On a summer night
evidence for another animal can easily be detected. Although the croaking
of frogs is not heard all year round, these tadpoles will be next year's
singing frogs. Next time you visit the park look for the big marsh hawk
sitting on the power-lines waiting for a field mouse to come into view.
<School bus driving past the cypress marsh.
|Website created by Frank Koch, Ross Andrews, and Chris Murray. All pictures taken by Ross Andrews at the Walnut Creek Wetlands in Southeast Raleigh. Maps generated by Frank Koch using ESRI ArcGIS 8.1. Soil profiles and their descriptions completed by Chris Murray. For more information on how you can help preserve this vital urban resource please write to Partners For Environmental Justice, c/o St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 813 Darby Street, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27610.|