Taxodium

Bald cypress
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Taxodiaceae
Genus: Taxodium
Species
  • Taxodium ascendens - Pond cypress
  • Taxodium distichum - Bald cypress
  • Taxodium mucronatum -
    Montezuma cypress
Taxodium is a genus of three (or two?) conifers in the Family Taxodiaceae that grow in the southern part of the North American continent. These trees are closely related to the redwoods on the American west coast. The trees are especially prized for their lumber, which is extremely rot-resistant. The shredded bark of these trees is a popular mulch. The trees are deciduous in the north, semi-deciduous in the south.
  • Most "famous" is the Bald cypress or Southern cypress or Swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) from the southeastern U.S. The trees are called 'bald cypress' because they lose their needles during the winter months. The largest remaining stand of Bald cypress is at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. These trees are around 500 years of age and reach heights exceeding 130 ft (40-45 m). Ancient Bald cypress forests, with some trees over 1000 years old, once dominated swamps in the Southeast.

Bald cypress trees in swamp situations have a peculiarity of growth called cypress knees. These are woody projections, sent above the water from the roots. Their function is to provide oxygen to the roots, growing in low dissolved oxygen (DO) waters of a swamp. See also: mangrove.

The Bald cypress was designated the official (state) tree of Louisiana in 1963.

  • The Pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens or T. distichum var. nutans) is smaller than the Bald cypress, and the bark is a lighter gray. Needles tend to point upwards.

  • The Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) from the highlands of Mexico has the greatest girth of any living tree, with the record specimen being over fifty feet in diameter.

Reference

  • National Audubon Society. undated. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. A Companion Field Guide. Artype Inc., Ft. Meyers. 25 p.

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