Bald Cypress is a deciduous conifer that is found growing along rivers, creeks and in swampy areas throughout the southern United States. It can be found as far north as Massachusetts and west to Missouri.
Bald Cypress commonly reaches a height of more than 130 feet and a diameter of 8 feet. There are reports that document some specimens living for more than 1,000 years.
The trunk is usually swollen at the base and separated into ridges with numerous cone-shaped “knees” that extend upward from roots that are growing in extremely wet areas or in water.
Leaves are 2-ranked 1/2-to 3/4-inch long, flat, sessile (attached directly to the stem) and light green. This deciduous habit of losing leaves in the fall is unusual for a conifer.
Its gray to cinnamon-brown bark is thin, smooth, and divided by longitudinal fine fissures.
Produces a cone in the fall for seed production that is 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. The seeds are 2-winged borne under each scale of the cone and usually spread by wind or water.
Bald Cypress trees produce a light to dark brown wood that is very durable. The wood has been used for boat building, docks, bridges, tanks, silos, shingles, and numerous other uses. The wood is very resistant to rot and is prized for its durability in contact with soil and water. It is utilized today in the lumber industry but is also a wonderful tree to plant in upland sites and is a favorite of landscapers.
Bald Cypress has been cultivated in Europe since 1640 and ancestors of this species have been documented in North America in the company of ginkgoes and sequoias that were found over the greater part of the continent.
Bald Cypress has the genus name “Taxodium” which is Greek and means “yew-like” in reference to the leaves. The species “distichum” means “2-ranked” which also refers to the leaves.
This tree is also known as Southern Cypress, Swamp Cypress, Gulf Cypress and several more. It is best known in Texas as a large, beautiful tree that grows on the banks of the Guadalupe and many more of the wonderful Hill Country streams.
Editor’s note: Kent Ferguson, retired rangeland management specialist from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is providing us with plant identification photo stories to help ranchers identify those forbs, forages and species growing in the pastures. Additional photos provided by USDA NRCS.
Bald Cypress is excerpted from the August 2019 issue of The Cattleman magazine.
The Cattleman magazine is received monthly by TSCRA members as part of their membership in the organization.
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