cypress domes

When it comes to the swamp, people think cypress trees first, and usually in their two trademark forms: cypress domes and strands. One oval-shaped and the other more curvilinear, both help navigate water through the swamp. Cypress domes | Strands and sloughsSwamp mosaic?Flood and fire | Marl Prairies | UplandsBotany | Alligators and more | Life cycle of a pond apple | mangroves

Where alligators roam
And the place they call home

Who says you don’t leave tracks in the water?

Here’s a case where a gator left a clear trail.

The path not taken

Only I never did see the gator …

Even though it looked like it had recently been there.

As seen earlier in September

Was it coming or going?

I didn’t get any closer to see. And not that the water wasn’t crystal clear. The waters of the swamp are shallow and oligotrophic, making it almost like looking through glass. At least in theory that’s the case — but not in this spot with all the duckweed on top. Could a gator be down there lying in wait? And did I say shallow? Water to the knee is deeper than it seems. And so I turned around: I’m just a visitor in a cypress dome the alligator (wherever he is) calls home.

No Name Strand
All the major ones are named, or are they?

Among the many mysteries of the swamp:

Cypress domes are usually not named.

No Name Strand

That’s unusual because cypress domes are the swamp’s most iconic (or shall we say, trademark) feature by many accounts. They number in the hundreds of thousands, maybe more. But unlike lakes and bays, they remain nameless to this day. Think about it, even stars — however faint — get labeled with a number or a common name of some sort. In particularly, I’m thinking of Betelgeuse, Orion’s upper right shoulder, an orange-glowing red giant located 642 light years from earth.

Then there’s the case of the cypress strands. These are linear groves of cypress that carry the bulk of the swamp’s sheet flow. All of them are named, or all the major ones at least. In a landscape otherwise lacking geologic or topographic landmarks, strands stand out as major physiographic features that jump off the map. Major ones include Roberts Lakes, Gator Hook, Deep Lake, Cowbell, Barnes, Dayhoff and Garnett to name a few.

As good fortune would have it, the cartographers didn’t see them all, or see all of them fit to name. Or maybe in the years since the cartographers first drew up the maps the cypress grew back.

Not a major strand, but a swamp flow way none the less. That’s Birdon Road in the background, looking northeast

Whatever the case, it’s good to know there’s still some unnamed real estate out there in the swamp, that nobody’s ever named, and possibly never explored. A frontier then and a frontier now, the swamp is a boundless expanse that has interior regions still waiting to be defined.

Here’s to hoping they never are.