William Bartram’s Cypress

Excerpt from William Bartram’s Travels, published in 1791:

Cypress Tree knees along the Suwannee River Middle Fork kayak trail; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 6, 2017. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally at Dreamstime.com.

“THE Cypress stands in the first order of North American trees. Its majestic stature is surprising, and on approaching them, we are struck with a kind of awe, at beholding the stateliness of the trunk, lifting its cumbrous top towards the skies, and casting a wide shade upon the ground, as a dark intervening cloud, which, for a time, precludes the rays of the sun. The delicacy of its colour, and texture of its leaves, exceed every thing in vegetation. It generally grows in the water, or in low flat lands, near the banks of great rivers and lakes, that are covered, great part of the year, with two or three feet depth of water, and that part of the trunk, which is subject to be under water, and four or five feet higher up, is greatly enlarged, by prodigious buttresses, or pilasters, which, in full grown trees, project out on every side, to such a distance, that several men might easily hide themselves in the hollows between. Each pilaster terminates under ground, in a very large, strong, serpentine root, which strikes off, and branches every way, just under the surface of the earth; and from these roots grow woody cones, called cypress knees, four, five, and six feet high, and from six to eighteen inches and two feet in diameter at their bases. The large ones are hollow, and serve very well for beehives; a small space of the tree itself is hollow, nearly as high as the buttresses already mentioned.” Part II, Chapter III


William Bartram was a botantist, artist, and nature writer that explored the southeastern United States around the time of the American Revolution (1773-1776). He was a scientist, creationist and Christian that gave glory to the Author for all the wonderful works he observed and documented in his book, Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida.

  • Bartram, William, and Thomas Slaughter. William Bartram: Travels and Other WritingsLibrary of America, 1996.

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