Gusty squalls had been battering houses and fences all morning, and driving rain had come in all directions. But the afternoon saw a break in the weather so I took the opportunity for some nature time. There was some localised flooding and I expected some sodden paths and gullies filled with water from sudden, prolonged outburst. I came across this exceeding tall, fine-feathered tree, towering beside a waterway. And by its side were knobbly outcrops.
Turns out, these are the knobbly knees of the Swamp Cypress taxodium distichum. Although it is native to south-eastern USA – growing in swamps aplenty in Louisiana – it has also made its way to some ornamental parks and gardens in Europe. Those knees are actually full of air channels which pull oxygen down into the root systems. I don’t know when this tree was planted, but the potential age of these trees is in excess of 1,500 years, and they stretch back in time to the mid-Cretaceous period. And apparently they ‘were much more widespread in the time of the dinosaurs than they are now’ !
And that reminded me of a fossil forest I found in Dorset. I had seen it on the map, but had not found the path to get to it before. And then I did. What remains are the ‘tufa’ – the growth of algae which surrounded the trunks millions of years ago. That is what those circular holes are. And that is quite astonishing, when you think about it. Walking where dinosaurs walked.