Louisiana State Tree
Baldcypress (common name)
Taxodium distichum (scientific name)
Baldcypress, designated Florida's state tree in 1963, is a characteristic plant of southern swamplands. It is the dominant tree in Florida's Big Cypress National Park. However, cypress swamps may be found as far north as Maryland, Missouri, and Illinois. In cultivation, the tree can tolerate a wide range of soils, but baldcypress is best known as a swamp tree, growing in flooded bottomlands, and forming wide buttressed trunks, together with woody "knees" projecting from the water. The knees are outgrowths from the tree's roots.
Louisiana's abundant bottomland swamps once were home to immense forests of baldcypress trees, reaching 150 feet high, with bases 12 feet in diameter. From 1890 to 1925, industrialized logging was a major part of the economy of Louisiana. Baldcypress old-growth timber proved to be one of our most decay-resistant woods. The wood of second-growth forests does not possess this quality, probably because sizeable heartwood will take centuries to develop.
In addition to baldcypress, this tree is also known as pondcypress, cypress, white cypress, Gulf cypress, southern cypress, red cypress, swamp cypress, and yellow cypress.
Baldcypress is a large, deciduous conifer, growing upright, frequently to 100 to 120 feet (30-37 m). In the forest, baldcypress typically has a broad, irregular crown, often draped in curtains and streams of gray Spanish moss. The trunks of older trees are massive, tapering and, particularly when growing in swamps, buttressed at the base. Baldcypress is one of the few conifers that will shed all its needles in the winter.
Height: up to 150 ft (46 m)
Diameter: 7-12 ft (2.2-3.7 m)
Bark: thin and fibrous with interwoven pattern
Seed: spherical, fall into sections at maturity
Leaves: flat, soft needles with spreading blades ½ in long, fall in winter
Baldcypress grows slowly and is very long-lived. Individual trees have been reported up to 1,200 years old in Georgia and South Carolina, and 2,000 years old in Louisiana.
Baldcypress grows in swamps and flooded bottomlands of the southern United States, and is also adaptable to dry conditions. "Cypress knees" occur only near water. This tree shares its habitat with longleaf, shortleaf, slash, and loblolly pine forests, as well as ash, hickory, gum, and oak forests.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Wild turkey, wood ducks, evening grosbeak, and squirrels eat baldcypress seeds. The seed is a minor part of the diet of waterfowl and wading birds. Warblers use the old decaying knees for nesting cavities and forage in the Spanish moss often found hanging on the branches of old cypress trees. Baldcypress domes provide watering places for a variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles, and breeding sites for a number of frogs, toads, and salamanders. Domes also provide nesting sites for herons and egrets.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Baldcypress wood is highly resistant to decay, making it valuable for a multitude of uses. It is used in building construction, fence posts, boat planking, doors, blinds, flooring, shingles, caskets, interior trim, and cabinetry.
Baldcypress has been planted as a water-tolerant tree species used for shading and canopy closure to help reduce populations of a certain species of mosquito. It has been successfully planted throughout its range as an ornamental and along roadsides. Cypress domes can serve as tertiary sewage treatment facilities for improving water quality and recharging groundwater.
Baldcypress produces seed every year. Because of the large size of the seeds and the relatively small wing size, cypress seeds are not dispersed to any distance by the wind. Floodwaters disperse the seed along rivers and streams.
After disturbance, cypress will sprout from the stumps of young trees. Trees up to 60 years of age send up healthy sprouts. Trees up to 200 years of age may also sprout but not very vigorously.
Canopy thinning has been reported as the best management practice for regenerating baldcypress. Thinning controls competition and allows overhead light for newly germinated seedlings.
Baldcypress is usually restricted to very wet soils consisting of muck, clay, or fine sand where moisture is abundant and fairly permanent. Baldcypress prefers acidic soils.
Although it is the classic tree of southern swamps, when the Baldcypress is planted on the right soil in yards or along streets, it does quite well. It has been grown successfully in cities as far north as Milwaukee and on dry Texas hills.
Baldcypress grows along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from southern Delaware to southern Florida, westward along the lower Gulf Coast Plain to southeastern Texas, almost to the Mexican border. Inland, it grows along streams of the southeastern states and north in the Mississippi Valley to southeastern Oklahoma, southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana.
More than 90 percent of the natural cypress stands are found on flat or nearly flat topography at elevations less than 100 feet (30 m) above sea level. The upper limit of its growth in the Mississippi Valley is at an elevation of about 500 feet (152 m).
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S.Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press