Te Anau: amidst tourists and birds

Te Anau is a small town of barely 2,000 inhabitants situated at the edge of New Zealand’s Fjordland National Park. It is erected along the shores of Lake Te Anau, the second largest lake in New Zealand and largest in Australasia by freshwater volume, and overlooked by Jackson Peaks (1622m), the Kepler Mountains and, further north, by the Murchinson Range.

Life in Te Anau revolves almost exclusively around tourism, which means only Europeans, Asians and North Americans will cross your path in summertime. Indeed, Te Anau is a popular base to access the hyped Milford and Doubtful Sounds by boat, as well as the Routeburn and Hollyford hiking trails by road. Float plane and heli-tours also daily take off from the lake for an aerial exploration of the fjords. But the most remarkable local attraction is the Kepler Track, a 67 km alpine hiking loop that ranks among New Zealand’s nine Great Walks and attracts many hikers from overseas.  Continue reading

Mysterious cypress knees

Pond Cypresses (Taxodium ascendens) are tall coniferous trees that occur in wetland areas of the southeastern United-States, from Virginia to Louisiana. Shallow water dwellers, they can reach up to 25 m in height and typically live up to 1,000 years, although the oldest known specimen was 3,500 years old. Christened “The Senator”, it stood in Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida, until a fire burned it down in 2012.

The most striking feature of this tree species is its ability to grow vertical, conical woody root extensions above ground and water levels. The role of these “cypress knees” remains a mystery, although various theories exist including aeration, methane emission and mechanical support. Their height depends on the water depth around the tree and their size is conditioned by soil type, soft (larger knees) or firm (smaller knees).

Pond cypresses were introduced in France in 1789 and the trees from the above pictures pertain to the Arboretum de la Vallée aux Loups. Situated south of Paris, this small park owes its reputation to its remarkable trees and its location adjacent to the Maison de Chateaubriand, a mansion which belonged to the eminent French writer of the same name.

If interested in learning more about cypress knees, here is an interesting and thorough article.

Location: Châtenay-Malabry, France