The mystery of the petrified tree stumps
Date posted: Monday 7th November 2011
Roots of Swamp Cypress Trees
Park user Nicola Johnson raised this very interesting question:
“I am a regular user of Bushy Park. I often walk in the Woodland Gardens, along the stream that runs through it. I have noticed what looks like petrified tree stumps ‘growing’ alongside the river there, on both sides. People often remark about them, but no-one knows what they are, nor how they ‘grow’. They are less than a foot high, are numerous, and have generally rounded tops. I have not seen them anywhere else. There are lots between the two bridges, especially close to the ‘crocodile bridge’.
Would you be able to englighten me as to what they could be?!”
Pieter Morpurgo replies:
“The stumps you ask about are actually the roots of Swamp cypress trees (Latin name Taxodium distichum). They are many years old, and very often they make these knobbly aerial roots (which are called pneumatophores). It is thought that they may help the tree to breathe when the trees grow in or close to water, and maybe they also help to stabilise the tree. It seems no one knows for sure why they are there, but in some places the â€œrootsâ€ have been cut off and that doesnâ€™t appear to have harmed the parent tree.
There are quite a few along that bit of the river (the Kingâ€™s river). Over time some of the trees has fallen, but the roots remain. There are other examples of the trees with their roots in many of the other Royal Parks â€“ Regents, St. James, Greenwich and Richmond.”