COMMON NAMES: COMMON BALD CYPRESS – Taxodium distichum MONTEZUMA BALD CYPRESS – Taxodium mucronatum or Taxodium distichum var. mexicanum per Shinner and Mahler
POND BALD CYPRESS – Taxodium distichum var. nutans or Taxodium ascendens
BOTANICAL NAME: Taxodium spp.
FAMILY: Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)
TYPE: Deciduous conifer tree
HEIGHT: 70 to well over 100 feet
SPREAD: 20 to 30 feet
FINAL SPACING: 20 to 30 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Bald cypress is native to the Pineywoods, Gulf Prairies and Marshes, Pots Oak Savannah, Rio Grande Plains and Edward’s Plateau. It will adapt to a wide range of soils from sandy to heavy clays. Depending on the seed it may not grow in black and white soils
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Bald cypress is a deciduous conifer that grows in a dramatic upright form, usually a strong central stem, pyramidal when young but spreading with age. Foliage is light green, lacy in texture and has reddish-brown fall color. The branching structure is layered and distinctive. Root “knees” appear in wet soil.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: 3 to 5 inch male cones March through April in drooping clusters, few female cones at branch tips in the spring. Fruits are wrinkled, rounded cones about one inch maturing in the fall.
BARK: Gray to light reddish brown, fibrous, shallow furrows and broad flat ridges.
FOLIAGE: Leaves are alternate, small ½ to ¾ inch, pointed at the tip, light green in summer with reddish-brown fall color. The leaves of pond cypress don’t open and stay folded to form a filament effect.
CULTURE: All of the bald cypress trees are easy to grow in a wide range of soil. They can grow in wet soil or in water but can also do well in normal garden soil and moisture. Some growers have found bald cypress to be quite drought tolerant. Medium growth rate under moderate to little fertilization.
PROBLEMS: Chlorosis when grown on top of white limestone rock in shallow soils. Crown gall will attack stressed trees, so will spider mites and bag worms. The Basic Organic Program will prevent these pests.
PROPAGATION: Primarily by seed. Collect the seeds in late September when the cones have turned brown but haven’t shattered. Before sowing soak the seeds in a 1% vinegar solution or in water just under the boiling point. Some books recommend a 1% lye solution. Bad idea. Garrett Juice would be the best treatment.
INSIGHT: Montezuma cypress comes out earlier in the spring and holds its foliage longer in the fall than bald cypress. It also seems to be more salt tolerant.
SUMMER CYPRESS TREE PROBLEMS
There are lots of trees in trouble from the heat and drought this summer, but some of the problems are exaggerated by poor landscape design, installation and management. These are bald cypress that have burned up along Central expressway (75) in Dallas. Plastic fabrics were used at planting, for weed control I suppose. Of course the fabrics failed and herbicides were sprayed. Both techniques hurt the trees. Drip irrigation was used and you can see why I don't recommend it for landscaping work. The solution to this mess is to remove all the plastic, fabric, fix the irrigation system and mulch the trees with shredded native tree trimmings and fertilize with organic fertilizers, all of which will reduce the stress on the trees and minimize the damage that could be done in the future.
Another tip related to bald cypress use is to switch to other similar plants. Even properly planted bald cypress trees will often have brown interior foliage in late summer. Part of this issue is mites attacking weaken trees and chlorosis due to poor seed sourcing. Many nurseries sell bald cypress that are more adapted to sandy acid soils that alkaline calcareous soils. The trees that are much better choices and rarely have the problems discussed here are Montezuma cypress and dawn redwood. Details about the trees and where they will grow are on the web site. Simply used the highlighted links.
Shop online at the Natural Organic Warehouse (NOW) for all of the products I recommend in the Organic Program. Also products are available in the Dirt Doctor's Corner of your favorite Garden Center.
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