2016

 
 

Bald cypress, Swamp cypress, or Taxodium distichum, is a long-lived conifer that resembles its cousins the redwoods.  And even though the foliage is described as needles, they are feathery soft and grass green. This foliage not only invites touch but is deciduous (hence the name “bald” cypress) and turns a fiery copper in fall and remains on the tree for weeks making Baldcypress a first-choice for autumn color. Although it grows quite tall, normally 50 to 70 feet, record trees have exceeded 130 feet. Like most conifers it has a narrowly, conical form, tall and upright for the first few decades, but, with great age, it begins to spread out into the the attractively tiered form somewhat like an Atlas cedar. Trunks are buttressed, or flared, at the base, and if growing in water, may produce knobby root growths, called knees. Its "cones" are ball shaped, green with a bluish cast and mature to brown. The wood is rot-resistant and used for a number of utilitarian purposes. Its closest relative is the Dawn redwood, or Metasequoia glyptostroboides, which is also deciduous. In Greek, Taxodium means resembling yews, Taxus, referring to the soft, flat needles. There are other baldcypresses: Pond cypress and Mexican cypress. Some Botanists consider them separate species, others designate them as varieties of the single species. That would make Taxodium distichum a single species in a single genus.

Bald cypress is perfect for wet locations, such as its native habitat of swamps and bogs, but what surprises many, is how well the tree grows on almost any soil, including heavy, compacted, or poorly-drained muck, all except highly alkaline soils with a pH above 7.5. And when given full sun, it grows quite fast, but unlike other fast-growing trees, Bald cypress is strong and stands up well to high winds. Also it is maintenance free, requiring only light pruning to remove dead wood or unwanted lower branches. It maintains a ram-rod straight trunk throughout its life. Its canopy is not so dense that it would exclude gardening at the base.

Bald cypress is native to the coastal areas of the United States and the Mississippi river valley, particularly Florida and Louisiana (state tree) where it is so often found growing in standing water, draped in Spanish moss. Now, however, it is widely grown across Lower Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

Bald cypress

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