Long-lived, symmetrical, stately, and seasonally attractive, the Bald Cypress is a fast-growing tree that is incredibly adaptive. It is exceptional as a cone-bearing tree in that it sheds its needles each winter and regrows them in the spring; in the autumn, its feathery coppery-red foliage is an unexpected show-stopper. The Bald Cypress is also specially characterized by intriguing “knees”: conical projections that spread out and buttress the base of its trunk when the tree is grown in more swampy soils; these “knees” are suspected to aid in oxygenating the roots or are perhaps used to provide further stability in softer soils. Whatever their reason, they certainly also promote the Bald Cypress’s majestic and distinguishing silhouette.
This species is native to the Southeast United States, spreading from Delaware to Florida, and westward towards Texas, Oklahoma, and Indiana. Unsurprisingly, it favors warm and humid climates with plenty of sunshine; ice damages its seedlings and can prevent regeneration, though larger and older trees better tolerate colder conditions (when planted in cooler climates, the tree’s growth is healthy but very slow, and without seedling/cone production). Massive and aquatic, this conifer tree boasts a 4-9 hardiness rating. It favors medium to wet and well-drained soils, with roots that are often submerged underwater when the tree is situated in a swamp environment. Bald Cypress swamps are in fact known as some of the world’s most productive ecosystems.
Scientifically classified as Taxodium distichum, the Bald Cypress belongs to the family Cupressaceae. Given its deciduous nature—hence the name “Bald” Cypress—it is a non-flowering plant with linear, downy, sage-green leaves which are shed in the winter. Its bark, typically a smoky-brown color tinged with gray and green and red undertones, is distinguishably thin and fibrous, often described as stringy and ridged. The wood itself is odorless and popular for its water resistance. With high merchantable yields, the wood is commonly used to create shingles, wall panels, and even carvings.
Bald Cypresses reach an average height of 50-70 ft. with a 20-45 ft. spread. The tallest known such tree is located near Williamsburg, Virginia, and rears up at approximately 144 ft. With some Bald Cypresses reputed to be older than 1,600 years old, you can imagine the tales such a tree could tell if it could speak! It has been designated as Louisiana’s official state tree, and is commended by some as “the symbol of the southern swamps”.
Photos Richard Webb, Bugwood.org
Photos Copyright © Horticopia, Inc. 2017
This Tree's Zone: 4 to 9
Your Growing Zone:
|Fall Foliage||Coppery bronze|
|Size||50 to 70 feet|
|Spread||20 to 45 feet|