Swamp Cypress tree in Belair Park – previously hit by lightning – to be saved

Since the Annual General Meeting late last year, the Friends have been hard at work, liaising with Southwark councillors and officers to improve your Park and working also in defence of other local green spaces. We have a backlog of news, much of it concerning the aftermath of the flood relief works, and we shall be bringing you this in a series of bulletins of which this is the first.

T. distichum Sept 16, 2012 mjh

the Belair Swamp Cypress in Sept. 2012

T.distichum April 11, 2015

the Belair Swamp Cypress in April 2015

We begin with an update about a much-loved tree in Belair Park, the American Swamp Cypress, close to the mansion. It has been a much-admired feature of the Park for many years (see the photo taken on September 16, 2012). The species (Taxodium distichum) is otherwise known as the Bald Cypress because it drops its leaves annually.

A long-lived tree, often reaching ages of over half a millennium, it is a native of swampy forests in the SE corner of the USA. One of its notable feature is that in environments in which the water fluctuates, it typically produces woody “knees” that rise out of the water-logged surface and enable the tree to get oxygen down to its submerged roots. There has been no need for our specimen to produce “knees” in its present location.

swamp cypress growing in Delaware

a forest of swamp cypress growing in Delaware (Credit: Kej605. CC BY-SA 3.0)

Sadly, our tree was struck by lightning in mid-October, 2014, and the top section came down. There has been talk about removing the remaining section (the present appearance of the tree is shown in the photo, taken on April 11, 2015), but during this month, after a brief email exchange between Martin Heath, Chair of the Friends, Paul Highman, Dulwich area parks manager and tree officer Ian Williams, a decision has been taken to preserve the lower part of the tree.

It was not the only swamp cypress in the Park, but it was the easiest to find!

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