Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a stately and tall with soft green foliage and an irregular, flat top. They are among the first trees to loose their leaves in the fall (hence the name “bald cypress”) and the last to bud in the spring. The tree is native to the southern part of the United States. Many small leaves along a short twig produce a feathered pattern; the short stems are alternatively placed on a central stem. The leaf-covered stem sheds in autumn. Both male and female flowers grow in loose clusters on the same tree; its fruit is a round, woody-scaled cone about one-inch in diameter. The trunk often shows prominent buttressing. Its bark is reddish to gray with fibrous ridges. Resistant to rotting, its wood is used in docks, bridges and boats. Its close neighbor the Dawn redwood (opposite the path) looks somewhat like the bold cypress except that this tree has the needles placed opposite of each other on the stem, and it has a cone on a long stalk that does not fall apart from the inside like the bald cypress cone does. This tree has the largest trunk diameter of all eastern trees and is the longest living of trees in the East (1,622 years). The species was introduced to Europe in 1640. As felled trees coppice easily, they have provided a continous source of timber. Genus name comes from the Latin word Taxus meaning “yew” and the Greek work eidos meaning resemblance in reference to the leaf shape. The specific epithet means “two ranks” for the needle arrangement on the stem.
Common name: Common Bald Cypressus, Bald Cypress, Swamp Cyress, Deciduous Cypress, Sabino Tree
Scientific Name (family and order): Taxodium distichum (L.) Richard (Cupressaceae, Cupressales)
Species Origin: S. E. USA
New Jersey Status: USDA Native
Habit: 100 -160’ tall x 80’ wide; bole 3 -5’ diameter.
Habitat: Zone 4 – 11; swamps and streambanks
Trunk/Stem: Gray brown, thin, rough often fluted and butressed at the base. Aerial roots (“knees”, “pneumatophores”).
Leaves: Deciduous (leaf and shoot), Simple and needle-like, Alternate (leaf and shoot). Linear 3/4” long, flattened, arranged on either side of the shoot (4”) (distichous) or spiral; emerging late. In autumn leaves turn from brick red to golden brown before shedding
Flowers: Monoecious. Staminate flowers in hanging catkins 4 – 12” long at the end of shoots; female green spiky flowers clusters at the base (proximal) of the catkins while male flowers sit at the end (distal); both flowers appear on the same tree. Flower forms in autumn but opens in spring.
Fruits and seeds: A rounded cone, 1 ¼” long, green ripening brown, few woody scales.