Into the Wild: Cypress Swamp

By MDC | November 1, 2021
From Xplor: November/December 2021


Bald cypress trees breathe with their knees! Bumpy stumps called “knees” stick out of the water around a cypress’s trunk. The knees act like snorkels to carry air down to the tree’s waterlogged roots.

Swamps are usually swamped with long-legged birds that wade through the murky water searching for fish, frogs, and other creatures to eat.

To escape predators, swamp rabbits dive into deep water. They’re strong swimmers and often surface under roots to hide until danger has passed.

Take a Closer Look

Duckweed is one of the world’s smallest flowering plants. But don’t waste your time trying to spot (or sniff) a duckweed blossom. The flowers are too tiny

to see with the naked eye.

Alligator snapping turtles lurk in murky swamp water. When one gets hungry, it opens its mouth and wiggles its worm-shaped tongue. Hungry fish mistake the tongue for an easy meal and learn too late where the name “snapper” comes from.


Sometimes, swamp water doesn’t contain much oxygen. If you’re a fish, this makes it hard to breathe. Bowfins survive by sipping air at the water’s surface. Slurp!

Where to Go

Two hundred years ago, Missouri’s Bootheel was soggy with swamps. Today, only a few of these wonderful wetlands remain.

  •  Allred Lake Natural Area
  • Otter Slough Conservation Area
  • Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
  • Big Oak Tree State Park

What Happened Here?

If you find what look like raisins on a log, don’t eat them! Swamp rabbits often rest on cypress knees and fallen logs, leaving behind raisin-like poop pellets.


November — when cypress trees blaze with autumn color — is a great time to wade into one of Missouri’s most endangered habitats.

Also In This Issue


Missouri’s mightiest mammal makes a comeback

This Issue's Staff

Les Fortenberry
Alexis (AJ) Joyce
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White