Baldcypress – Taxodium distichum

Baldcypress – Taxodium distichum
Family Cupressaceae
Native to North America, baldcypress can
grow to 150 ft. It is the state tree of Louisiana.

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Baldcypress Bark
Although often seen at water’s edge where it will develop “knees”, or root projections, that will extend above the water, Baldcypress can also be grown in dry locations and makes an attractive lawn, street, or shade tree. Cypress knees do not generally form on these drier sites. Cities from Charlotte, NC, Dallas, TX to Tampa, FL currently use it as a street tree. Baldcypress can be clipped into a formal hedge, creating a wonderful soft screen.

Surprisingly, the roots do not appear to lift sidewalks and curbs as readily as some other species. Its delicate, feathery foliage affords light, dappled shade, and the heartwood of Baldcypress is quite resistant to rot.

Baldcypress is ideal for wet locations, such as its native habitat of stream banks and mucky soils, but the trees will also grow remarkably well on almost any soil, including heavy, compacted, or poorly-drained muck, except alkaline soils with a pH above 7.5. Locate where the sun will strike the tree on all sides for best symmetrical development. Baldcypress is relatively maintenance-free, requiring pruning only to remove dead wood and unwanted lower branches which persist on the tree. It maintains a desirably straight trunk and a moderately dense canopy and does not form double or multiple leaders as do many other large trees.

The cultivar Monarch of Illinois has a very widespreading form and Shawnee Brave has a narrow, pyramidal form, 15 to 20 feet wide. Pendens has drooping branchlets and large cones [2].

Baldcypress Foliage

Narrowly to broadly pyramidal when young, Baldcypress, the state tree of Louisiana, eventually develops into a broad-topped, spreading, open specimen when mature. Capable of reaching 100 to 150 feet in height, most landscape specimens are rarely seen in this open form because they are usually much younger and shorter. Trees grow at a moderately fast rate, reaching 40 to 50 feet in about 15 to 25 years.

Although it is native to wetlands along running streams, growth is often faster on moist, welldrained soil. The pale green, needle-like leaves turn a brilliant coppery red in fall before dropping, but the bare branches and reddish gray, peeling bark provide much landscape interest during the winter. The trunk grows unusually thick toward the base, even on young trees. The small seeds are used by some birds and squirrels [2].

Baldcypress Tree
This baldcypress at the Morton Arboretum is 50 years old [1]

  1. Baldcypress, Morton Arboretum acc. 346-60*2, photographed October 12, 2009 by Bruce Marlin
  2. Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson, USDA Forest Service, “Taxodium distichum Baldcypress
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