Characteristics of Bald Cypress Trees (Taxodium distichum) in the Wild

Taxodium distichum
Bald Cypress or Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) is a species of conifer in the Cupressaceae family. The tree is native to the southeastern United States, extending from southeastern New Jersey south to Florida and west to East Texas and southeastern Oklahoma, and also inland to the Mississippi River. This species can also be found growing outside its native area.

The ancient Bald Cypress Forest, with some trees over 1,700 years old, once dominated the swamps of the Southeast. Researchers have now discovered a natural forest overgrown with Bald Cypress on the Cape May Peninsula, in southern New Jersey.

In 2012 scuba divers discovered a forest of cypress trees believed to be bald cypress trees underwater several miles off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, at a depth of 60 feet (18.2 meters). The forest contains trees that cannot be determined. However, after being measured by radiocarbon methods, it showed that the trees were more than 50,000 years old. Thus it is likely that the trees lived during the early glacial interval of the last ice age.

The forest of cypresses in the water was in very well-preserved condition, and when the samples were cut, they still smelled like fresh fir.

Bald Cypress has several cultivated varieties and is often grown in groupings in public spaces. They are also sometimes sold as houseplants, especially bonsai.

 

Characteristics of Bald Cypress Leaf

Taxodium distichum Leaf
Source: flickr.com/Rafael Medina

Leaves are needles between 1.3-1.9 cm long, simple, alternate, green, with all margins. In autumn, the leaves turn yellow or copper-red. The bald fir drops its needles every winter and then grows new leaves in the spring.

 

Characteristics of Bald Cypress Fruit

Taxodium distichum Fruit
Source: flickr.com/Stefano

This species is monoecious, male cones appear on the panicle and are about 10-13 cm long. The female cones are spherical, 2-3.5 cm in diameter. Each cone contains 20-40 seeds measuring 5-10 mm.

The cones are green when young and turn brown when ripe.

 

Characteristics of Bald Cypress Trees

Taxodium distichum Tree
Source: flickr.com/Keith Ross

Bald cypress grows as an upright tree with a height of 45-40 meters. Grows best in wet or well-drained soil but tolerates dry soil.

Bald cypress can grow in saltwater aerosols, in acidic soils, neutral soils, alkaline soils, loamy soils, and in various types of light sandy soils. The tree is classified as strong and tough, which can adapt to various types of soil, moisture, to drought.

The tallest known species of bald cypress growing near Williamsburg, Virginia, stands 44.11 meters tall, and the strongest known, is in Real County near Leakey, Texas, which measures 1.2 meters (475 inches) in diameter. The known species, along the Black River in North Carolina, is at least 2,600 years old, making it the oldest living bald cypress tree in eastern North America.

 
HOW TO CULTIVATE BALD CYPRESS:

In its natural habitat, bald cypress trees grow naturally in swampy conditions, germination generally occurs in sphagnum moss or wet manure nurseries. The seeds won’t germinate underwater, but some will survive for 30 months underwater. In contrast, seeds usually fail to germinate in soils with better drainage due to a lack of surface water. Thus, soil that is saturated but not waterlogged for one to three months after seed drop is required for germination.

After germination, seedlings grow fairly quickly but need light for good growth. Seedlings of bald cypress in swamps often reach a height of 20-75 cm (8-29 in) in their first year.

 

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