Introduction to Baldcypress:
Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) is a deciduous conifer that grows on saturated soils of the Southeastern and Gulf Coastal. Two varieties bald and pond cypress share essentially the same natural range. Pondcypress, or black-cypress, grows in shallow ponds and wet areas westward only to southeastern Louisiana. It does not usually grow in river or stream swamps. Baldcypress or swamp-cypress is more widespread and typical of the species. Pondcypress is less likely than baldcypress to have knees, and its knees are shorter and more rounded.
Habitat of Baldcypress:
More than 90 percent of the natural baldcypress stands are on flat topography or in slight depressions at elevations of less than 100 feet above sea level. The upper limit of its growth is at an elevation of about 500 ft.
Humid to dry subhumid climatic types occur within the range of baldcypress. Normal rain conditions are from 64 inches along the central Gulf Coast to 30 inches in southeastern Texas. It should be noted, however, that baldcypress usually grows on intermittently flooded sites. Drainage, therefore, may be more important than rainfall in determining site suitability for baldcypress.
Reproduction of Baldcypress:
Baldcypress is monoecious. Male and female "cones" mature in one growing season from buds formed the previous year. Some seeds are produced every year, and good seed crops occur at 3- to 5-year intervals. At maturity, the cone scales with their resin
-coated seeds adhering to them, or sometimes entire cones, drop to the water or ground. Baldcypress is one of the few conifer species that sprouts. Sprouts are generally produced from stumps of young trees, but trees up to 60 years old also send up healthy sprouts.
Growth of Baldcypress:
Baldcypress is slow growing but long-lived. Baldcypress is noted for the large size it can attain. In virgin forests, the largest trees measured were 84 to 144 inches in d.b.h. and 140 to 150 feet in height. Baldcypress is noted for its high merchantable yields of forest products in both old growth and second generation stands and grows well under high density conditions.
Damaging Agents of Baldcypress:
A fungus, Stereum taxodi, that causes brown pocket rot known as "pecky cypress" attacks the heartwood of living baldcypress trees. The fruit tree leafroller, (Archips argyrospila), previously unreported on baldcypress, became epidemic in 1983 in Louisiana. The leafroller larvae feeds on cypress needles as soon as buds break and small leaflets expand. The cypress flea beetle (Systena marginalis) causes discoloration of foliage and the cypress looper (Anacamptodes pergracilis) causes defoliation. Nutria (Myocastor coypu) often clip or uproot newly planted cypress seedlings before the root systems are fully established.
Wildlife Benefits of Baldcypress:
Baldcypress seeds are eaten by wild turkeys, squirrels, evening grosbeaks, and wood ducks; they are a minor part of the diet of other waterfowl and wading birds; Large old baldcypress furnish unique habitats for some wildlife. Bald eagles and ospreys nest in the tops. Yellow-throated warblers forage in the Spanish moss or resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides) often found on old trees. Prothonotary warblers achieve their highest densities in baldcypress-tupelo stands where they find nesting cavities in old decaying baldcypress knees. Catfish spawn in submerged hollow cypress logs.
Uses of Baldcypress:
Baldcypress wood has a multitude of uses and is well known for its ability to resist decay. Cypressene, an oil extracted from the wood, is believed to give baldcypress high decay resistance. For this reason, cypress wood has long been favored in building construction, fences, planking in boats, river pilings, furniture, interior trim, cabinetry, sills, rafters, siding, flooring and shingles, garden boxes, greenhouses, and many other uses. However, second-growth baldcypress lack the decay resistant heartwood of the old-growth trees.