One of the notable facts about the bald cypress tree is development of 'cypress knees' when it is grown in swamps or wetlands. The cultural requirements for growing this tree are moist and acidic soil with maximum sunlight exposure. Since it prefers to thrive in waterlogged areas, moist woodlands, and along the river basin, it is also known as swamp cypress. Despite being water-loving, this coniferous tree also performs well in gardens and public parks. Matured bald cypress trees attain a desirable, triangular-shaped canopy, thus requiring less pruning or shaping approaches.
Information About Bald Cypress
Indigenous to southeastern parts of the United States, the bald cypress is included amongst the finest trees native to America. There are some characteristic features of this tree that make its identification quite easy. Being a native to lowland regions does not mean that it requires high rainfall. However, growing it in soggy soils that resemble its natural habitat, promotes healthy growth in the long run.
According to plant taxonomy, bald cypress is represented by the scientific name Taxodium distichum. It belongs to the Taxodiaceae family. An interesting aspect about this tree is the periodical shedding of leaves in winter, which is an unusual attribute of the coniferous, evergreen trees. It is named bald cypress because the tree remains bald until the next year's active season (spring).
When this tree grows in boggy or shallow water bodies, it develops knee-like root growths around the main stem, which protrude above the water level. The root protrusions, or 'cypress knees', collectively serve as an adaptation to increase air circulation to the root system. It is a feature characteristic to this gymnosperm. In its native growing conditions, this tree can reach heights of a hundred feet or more.
Similar to a majority of conifer trees, the leaves of bald cypress are needle-shaped and feathery. They are arranged in a specific two ranked pattern around the branches. During the active growing season (spring through summer), these leaves give a spectacular view to landscape design. As fall arrives, the leaf needles turn orange-brown in color, and gradually shed.
This conifer is best suited for growing in the USDA hardiness zones 5-10. The ideal conditions for growing it are moist, soggy, and acidic soil. Planting can be done using seeds or small tree saplings. If available, plant this conifer in areas that receive maximum (at least 8-10 hours) sunlight daily.
On an average, this tree grows to about 12 inches or more per year. Actual growth depends on the environmental conditions and soil science of the area. When planted as an ornamental tree in a garden, its height is usually between 50-70 feet, with a spread of not more than 25 feet. The bark is reddish-brown in color with vertical ridges and furrows.
As this tree belongs to the coniferous species, it is a non-flowering tree. Instead, it bears male cones in the upper portion and female cones in the lower branches for reproduction purposes. In late winter, the male cone releases pollen, which are then carried to the matured female cones by wind currents. After the green female cone is fertilized, it ripens and changes its color to brown.
When exposed to prolonged dry spells, the leaves of this tree turn brown and fall prematurely. Also, in dry conditions, production of cypress knees is less. If the growing soil is alkaline, the tree exhibits nutrient deficiency, leaf yellowing, and other problems. If you are including this tree in your landscaping project, ensure that you select a lowland area that has a high water level and acidic soil. Some identified diseases and pests affecting this tree are fungal rot, bagworm, coneworm, flea beetle, bark beetle, and looper.
Provided that the available growth conditions meet the basic requirements of the bald cypress tree, it survives from a several hundred to a few thousand years. Also, its hard wood is less susceptible to rotting and similar moisture problems, thus making it an excellent lumber for outdoor furniture.