The botanical name Taxodium means “like a Yew”, and although their foliage is similar, that’s all they have in common. The Bald Cypress is native only to North America and is found growing in pure stands from Delaware to Florida. The plants are quite hardy and are planted from USDA Zones 4-10 as far west as Texas and north into Canada.
Conical in shape when young, Bald Cypress becomes a stately spreading tree, often flat topped and very picturesque with age. It attains heights of 50-100 feet and a spread of 30-60 feet. The light green needles are soft and feathery, lending itself to an exotic look in the north. One of the few deciduous conifers, it loses its needles in the fall. The summer foliage turns a rusty orange-brown in October and then virtually disappears into the lawn requiring little raking.
Bald Cypress will tolerate a wide range of soils, but prefers slightly acid and moist soils. In its native habitat, it actually grows in the water. Knobby wooden protrusions called “Cypress Knees” raise above the water from the root systems. It is thought they are used to help the tree breathe by providing for gas exchange in wet or anaerobic soils. Adding to their mystery, is the fact that they only appear when the tree is in extremely wet conditions.
Bald Cypress have few pest or disease problems and none are serious. Its timber is also much sought after due to its water and termite-resistant properties.