Scientific name: Taxodium distichum
Deciduous conifers have great appeal in the landscape, and bald cypress as well as larch and dawn redwood are the three principal members of this group. These conifers have striking spring and fall color, and the bald cypress is well adapted to a wide range of sites, including wet areas, swamps, and estuaries, but also drier, urban soils, and colder climates.
Growing in plant hardiness zones 4 to 11, bald cypress can be planted as a street tree, and even in a rain garden or as a wetland mitigation option. Once established, it does not require consistent moisture in the root zone. When one describes site adaptability, this one wins the prize!
Fast-growing, bald cypress can reach 70 ft high and 30 ft wide. Bark is reddish to grayish brown and fibrous, with a base that is buttressed and fluted, especially in wet soils. With age, it has a coarser branch structure and broader crown. Needles are arranged spirally around the stem. In spring the needles emerge bright yellow-green, and in fall change to a beautiful russet-orange.
In the trade, bald cypress is usually straight, but there are increasing numbers of cultivars available including: Prairie Sentinel (narrow, columnar); Autumn Gold; Cascade Falls and Falling Waters (weeping forms); Debonair (pyramidal and open); and Shawnee Brave (taller with cold hardiness).
Bald cypress is a superb native tree for the landscape. With its adaptability, pyramidal form when young, followed by a mature full canopy, it offers a lasting impact in the landscape.
- Dirr, Michael A. & Warren, K.S. 2019. The Tree Book: Superior Selections for Landscapes, Streetscapes, and Gardens. Timber Press.