The baldcypress is a graceful tree, native to the eastern and southern coastal states but adaptable throughout much of the country. This unusual deciduous conifer typically grows from 50 to 70 feet tall, with the world champion being found on Louisiana's Cat Island and measuring 83 feet tall, 85 feet across the crown, and 17 feet in trunk diameter.
The tree creates a pleasant effect in the landscape with its horizontal branches and the flat-topped, “ceiling” effect of its mature crown. It is also known for the attractive color of its foliage, which is bright yellow and green in spring, sage green in summer, and russet in the fall. Its wood is very decay resistant, and many an early southern house constructed with baldcypress timber still stands. (Grows in hardiness zones 4 to 10)
The Baldcypress's Place in History
The baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) is often linked with southern swamps where it develops the woody “knees” by which it is best known to many. This characteristic, coupled with the tree's dense canopy, has given rise to its almost mythical forest presence.
No less a naturalist than John Muir wrote in his Thousand Mile Walk that “I am unable to see the country for the solemn, dark, mysterious cypress woods which cover everything,” and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his classic American poem “Evangeline”, “Over their heads the towering… boughs of the cypress / Met in a dusky arch… Deathlike the silence seemed.”
But perhaps the last word on baldcypress can be conveyed in the diverse forms of wildlife that depend on it for survival, and along the streets and parks where many Americans find shelter and shade.