Although very rare here, bald cypress is prominent enough in the South to be the state tree of Louisiana.

There are very few coniferous (cone bearing) trees that are deciduous; and because most prefer cooler winters, very few are ever seen in local gardens. The bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, happens to be one of the few deciduous coniferous trees that really could be more popular than it is, since it seems to be right at home in mild climates. It is native to coastal riparian regions from Maryland to Florida to eastern Texas, and up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers as far as Indiana.

The soft foliage resembles that of coastal redwood, but is more finely textured. It is still mostly light green, but will soon be turning paper bag brown before trees go bare. The tiny individual leaves are shaped like flat pine needles, and are not much more than half an inch long. The ruddy or grayish brown bark is finely shaggy.

In the wild, mature bald cypress trees can get more than a hundred feet tall with trunks more than five feet wide. Some of the largest trees have buttressed trunks as wide as fifteen feet! Trees in swamps develop distended growth from their roots known as ‘knees’, which can stand several feet tall! Fortunately, bald cypress rarely get half as tall or develop such massive trunks locally.

Bald cypress is one of the few deciduous conifers; so the finely textured light green foliage will soon be gone.

12 thoughts on “Bald Cypress

  1. We have a larch (larix sylvestris, I think) by my office. It always freaks everyone out when it defoliates every winter. You would think people might remember from one year to the next, but they don’t. I am surprised how unaware people can be of nature. The larch cones are very pretty–tiny, relatively speaking, sort of like hemlock. But the needles, also tiny, make quite a mess everywhere.
    Karla

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    1. That is one of my two objections to dawn redwood. I dislike it because it became a fad in the 1990s, so was planted too commonly into too many inappropriate situations. Also, I dislike how it (including the one specimen within our landscapes) was commonly planted amongst common coastal redwoods, so that when it defoliates, it looks like a dead coastal redwood.

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      1. It’s funny, isn’t it, how certain things go in and out of fashion (and I am talking about plants here). When I walk the dog, depending on my travels, I can tell the age of the landscape around the house and how recently it’s been renovated by what has been planted. That’s a bit true for my house too of course but at least you’ll see 60 years of differing plant material that was once in vogue as opposed to plant material from 60 years ago like I see at some of my neighbors. My yard is quirky, to say the least!

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      2. Oh yes; my colleague and I were just discussing how I thought that queen palms were so ‘fancy’ back when we were in school, and that they were somewhat rare here. He was not so impressed by them. Shortly afterward, through the 1990s, they became overly common. We both still like them, but also recognize how common they now are. My favorites though, are the coastal redwoods, some of which are centuries old, so were here long before any landscapes.

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  2. This is one of my favorite trees. It’s used a good bit in landscaping here, as well as being a native that thrives along certain of our rivers. The seed balls it produces are about the size of Sweetgum balls, and in a good year there can be hundreds on a tree. Squirrels adore them. There’s nothing quite like walking past a Bald Cypress filled with a dozen squirrels all chowing down and dropping debris on your head.

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      1. They’re also a bit of a problem for lawn crews. Around here, the roots will even pop up in grass, and they have to set the mowers high enough to keep from scalping them. Even when those roots get the tops cut off, though, it doesn’t seem to affect them much. We get so much rain that I suppose we could qualify as a saturated situation much of the year.

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      2. Bald cypress is actually more popular in the Los Angeles region than it is here. I can not explain why. Although it always seems to be within irrigated landscapes or lawns, it does not seem to mind the chaparral climates. I sort of doubt that it would be happy without generous irrigation though.

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      1. Here’s what I found, but it seems nobody really knows.
        Their function is unknown, but they are generally seen on trees growing in swamps. Some current hypotheses state that they might help to aerate the tree’s roots, create a barrier to catch sediment and reduce erosion, assist in anchoring the tree in the soft and muddy soil, or any combination thereof.

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