Bald Cypress

Bald Cypress

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Taxodium distichum
Cupressaceae (cypresses)

A large tree up to 130 feet tall, with a swollen base. Pyramidal growth habit, or else with an open, flat-topped crown. Often has cone-shaped “knees” emerging from roots of the tree if growing in water. Loses its leaves in the fall.

Leaves needlelike, opposite, in 2 rows along small twigs. Each leaf is ¼-¾ inch long, flat, linear, green, turning reddish-brown in autumn. Leaves are shed in autumn still attached to the small twigs.

Bark cinnamon-brown to gray, thick, with long, narrow grooves and flat, long ridges that peel off in fibrous, narrow strips.

Twigs light green on new growth, turning reddish brown with age, smooth, flexible. Side twigs green, falling with leaves still attached.

Flowers March–April. Male and female cones are found on the same tree.

Fruit, October–November, is a round cone 1 inch in diameter, green changing to purple, with tightly closed, shield-shaped scales that turn woody and brown and open at maturity to release seeds.

Height: to 130 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in swamps, sloughs and wet bottomland forests; widely planted as an ornamental. The oldest bald cypress trees in Missouri can be found at Allred Lake Natural Area, where they range from 500 to 1,000 years old — this is the last remaining stand of old-growth bald cypress in the state.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Natural distribution is swampy, wet areas of Missouri’s Bootheel, but this tree is widely planted and naturalized elsewhere.
Human connections: 
A popular ornamental, this tree was planted in European landscapes as early as 1640. Its majestic form graces many large public landscapes. The soft, durable wood has been used for paneling, construction lumber, barrels, caskets, boats, shingles, railroad ties, fence posts, and bridge beams.
Ecosystem connections: 
Many bird species, including wood ducks, eat the seeds. In addition to providing food for wildlife, large trees provide habitat as well, supporting in their boughs nests of many species and becoming crucial habitat for more animals after the trees die, fall, and begin to rot on the forest floor.
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