With winter coming sooner than we want, our trees are starting to go into their dormant state. One tree that tends to confuse people with the manner in which it goes dormant is Bald Cypress.
Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, is a deciduous conifer that has needles that look like most other conifer trees, but looses those needles in the fall like deciduous trees. If you didn’t know what this tree was or how it should look in the winter, this time of year could be a concern regarding the health of the tree. However, it is to be expected for your bald cypress tree to turn golden brown in the fall and then all the needles will fall off. This is just fine because it will produce new needles next spring and be spectacular again.
This is a very large tree that grows up to 40-60 feet tall and can reach heights of 100 feet, plus. It has large pendulous branches that make the tree even more interesting. This tree has soft, short needles that are scale-like. Bald Cypress has very unique cones, very different from other coniferous trees. The cones are round balls that are green with a purple hue when young, turning brown when mature. Bald Cypress trees also tend to have roots that pop up out of the ground, often referred to as ‘knees’, especially in locations that are very wet. These don’t harm anything, but should not be covered up with more soil as this could kill the tree or at minimum harm the growth. Occasionally, these surface roots will become intertwined with utility lines or become a tripping hazard, but overall are really neat features. The bark of a bald cypress tree exfoliates in long strips off the trunk as it ages.
Bald Cypress is an adaptable tree, but it prefers to be grown in wet locations. It is native to the swamps of the southeastern United States, so it likes to be grown in very moist environments. It can tolerate some drought, but it is best planted in low spots in your landscape where water tends to stand for a while. This tree cannot tolerate shade, so make sure it is in full sun and will be as it continues to grow. When planting Bald Cypress trees in your landscape be sure to give it plenty of room to grow, it is a very large tree and the space is often underestimated.
Bald Cypress is a tree with many uses. The wood can be used to make many things, including furniture, wall décor, bridges, docks, caskets, mulch, and silos. These trees are also used to make mulch for the garden. However, the mulch from a bald cypress is typically very fine and can mat together making anaerobic conditions for the plants growing with this mulch. Bald Cypress trees grow slow, so the population has declined as we are cutting down the trees for other uses, so be careful with what you use from bald cypress forests.
Bald Cypress is an amazing and large tree that would make a great addition to any landscape. An acreage would be a great location for this tree as there would be plenty of space for it to grow. It would be well suited for planting near a pond or lake, as this tree likes swampy locations. So the next time you are looking for another tree for a wide-open location in your landscape, look at Bald Cypress.