Georgia Gardener Newsletter Cool Plant: November 27, 2008

Bald Cypress
Taxodium distichum

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Species Native Range: Southeastern U.S.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-11
Mature Size: 80-100 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide
Exposure: Sun to light shade
Soil: Standing water to wet to average and dry
Drought Tolerance: Excellent
Ease of Culture: Easy

Bald cypress trees can be a great addition to almost any landscape. Because of their narrow upright growth, they can easily fit into areas that may be too narrow for other tall trees.

Although they are naturally found in swamps and bogs along the southern coasts and in wetlands near the Mississippi River, their ability to adapt to a wide range of soil conditions also makes them an easy-to-grow landscaping choice. I often see these trees used in commercial settings where their shape, adaptability and fast growth have made them very popular. In good growing conditions, these trees can grow as much as 3 feet per year when young.

Bald cypresses have another unique characteristic. Even though they are conifers, they are deciduous in that they lose their needles in the fall. The needles which are only 1/3 to 3/4 of an inch long turn an orange-red before dropping. Because the needles are so small, raking is usually not required. Once the needles have dropped, the attractive cinnamon-colored peeling bark gives the trees good winter interest. As they age, the trunks develop deep furrows.

Grow bald cypresses in sun to light shade where no overhead obstructions will impede their mature height. The soil conditions can range from extrememly wet with standing water to moderately dry.

In wet soils as pictured here, bald cypresses develop woody cone-shaped growths from the roots that are called "knees." These knees (pneumatophores) help the trees to obtain oxygen in saturated soils. Knees do not commonly develop in average or dry soils.

Use bald cypresses as specimen trees or in loose groupings where their pyramidal shape can be appreciated. They look extremely attractive near lakes and ponds where their soft texture and fall color reflect nicely off the water. Along the southern coasts, they can withstand brackish water. They can also be used for shade when planted in western or southern exposures.

The bald cypress is the state tree of Lousiana.


Bald cypress trees can be found at many local retail nurseries.

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