Taxodium distichum Bald Cypress This lofty, deciduous conifer grows 50-75 ft. or taller. It is slender and conical in youth, becoming flat-topped in very old age. Sage-green leaves, which appear to be bipinnately compound (but are not) and resemble feathers, turn copper-colored before falling. A tapering trunk is slightly buttressed at the swollen base. “Knees” develop mostly in poorly drained situations. Exfoliating bark is red-brown to silver. Large, needle-leaf, aquatic, deciduous tree often with cone-shaped “knees” projecting from submerged roots, with trunks enlarged at base and spreading into ridges or buttresses, and with a crown of widely spreading branches, flattened at top.
Called the “wood eternal” because its heartwood is resistant to decay, Bald Cypress is used for heavy construction, including docks, warehouses, boats, bridges, as well as general millwork and interior trim. The trees are planted as ornamentals northward in colder climates and in drier soils. Easily seen in Big Cypress National Preserve near Naples, Florida, as well as in appropriate conditions throughout the rest of its natural range, which comprises much of southeastern North America from Delaware south to Florida, west along the coast to eastern Oklahoma and Central Texas, with populations also following the Mississippi River drainage as far north as Illinois and Indiana, and continuing further south through Mexico to Guatemala. Pond Cypress (T. ascendens Brongn.), a species with shorter, scale-like leaves, is found in shallow ponds and poorly drained areas from southeastern Virginia to southeastern Louisiana below 100 feet (30 m) elevation.