February 2022 - Baldcypress

Common Name: Baldcypress 

Botanical Name: Taxodium distichum 

Native Range: USDA zones 4a-11. From the Atlantic Coastal Plains to Florida and west along the lower Gulf Coast to Texas. Inland the tree grows through the Mississippi Valley to Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. The Bald Cypress is a native deciduous conifer that demonstrates urban toughness, tolerates air pollution and poorly drained soils which has led to its cultivation in parking lots and streetscapes. Note that, unlike most confers, the baldcypress loses its needles each winter and grows a new set in the spring. 

Height: 50-70 ft. but can reach 100 ft. growing in the wild. 

Spread: 20-30 ft.in a pyramidal shape but becomes rounder as the tree matures 

Form: Pyramidal-conical in youth, widening with age. 

Growth Rate: Slow to moderate. In optimal environments, can grow up to 2’ a year. 

Sun: Full sun (6 hours daily) but can sustain growth with partial sun daily 

Soil: prefers acidic, wet soil but can tolerate clay, dryness and occasional flooding. 

Leaf Description: Bright, yellow green feathery foliage appears in the spring and darkens during the summer. The foliage become russet/copper in late fall before being shed. The needles are short, soft and flat. 

Fall Color: Ornamental. The foliage become russet/copper in late fall before being shed. 

Flower and Cone Description: Male flowers appear as cones in late spring and are 4/5 inches long. Female cones are round, much smaller and purple prior to turning brown in late summer 

Bark Description: The baldcypress bark ranges from gray to red brown and peels away in long strips. As the tree ages, the trunk becomes fluted and thicker at the base. The tree is relatively maintenance free and requires little pruning. 

Wildlife Benefit: Attracts small mammals and songbirds. Older trees form hollows which are used as cover and breeding sites for small mammals. 

Tolerates: Extremely adaptable tree. Tolerates dry urban soil, wet soil, sandy soil, low PH, cold climates. Does not show tolerance to high PH soil. Possible 

Disease and Insects: Mites during dry summers which can cause early leaf browning and needle drop; needle blight, bagworms and webworms may also cause difficulty 

Landscape Use: As per the world renowned horticulturist Michael Dirr, uses are infinite. Specimen tree, street tree, rain garden tree, wetland mitigation 

Where to be found in the Municipality:

  • (3) Newly planted 2 ½” caliper trees planted in Caldwell Park off of Bertrand Avenue
  • (1) Specimen in Marquand Park. Eastern border of park adjacent to a specimen Dawn Redwood 

Of Note: 

  • When near water, the baldcypress can make ‘knees’ that grow from the root system. Some attribute this to the knees aiding in oxygen movement to submerged roots or serving as anchor for the tree in wet soil. 
  • Knees have been used as beehives and as supports for wooden ship hulls. 
  • Often confused with the Dawn Redwood, the best way to tell the Baldcypress and Dawn Redwood apart is to look at the arrangement of the leaves. The leaves of dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides are oppositely arranged, while the leaves of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) are spirally arranged around the stem. Bald cypress is native to portions of the eastern United States, and although it is generally accepted that dawn redwood once grew here (15 million years ago), it is considered a native of China. 





Dirr, M.A. 2009. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.6th ed. Stipes Pub. Champaign, Il. Head, B.H.2006 Hutchinson’s tree book-a reference guide to popular landscape trees. Hutchinson Pub. Corp. Taylors, S.C 

Patricia Frawley, January 2022

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