Bald Cypress

A small tree on the bank of Ashland Pond (Ashland OR) caught my attention recently. It was unfamiliar. After some research, I believe it is a bald cypress (Taxodium distichum).

The bald cypress is native to Southeastern United States, however, it is grown as an ornamental far north of its native range and throughout the world. Bald cypress tolerates extremely wet conditions, even swamp lands. Its seeds are viable for less than a year and will only germinate in soil that is continuously saturated, but not flooded.

Bald cypress seeds are dispersed by flowing water or by animals or birds moving the seeds around. Ashland Pond is surrounded by residential areas so a squirrel or other animal may have brought the seeds to the wet habitat from a nearby garden or yard.

A mature bald cypress growing under proper conditions can reach heights of 75 feet or more. The cinnamon-colored bark is shaggy, ridged and fibrous. The short, narrow, needle-like leaves are arranged in two rows and feel soft to the touch. A light yellow-green in the summer, the deciduous leaves turn brownish before falling. The green cones ripen to brown.

Bald cypress trees growing in (or very near) water form woody “knees” that stick up above the water. It was originally thought that these knees provided oxygen to the waterlogged roots. Recent research indicates that structure and support are the true function of the knees.

Bald cypress wood is odorless (unlike that of cedars in the Cupressus genus). Heavy, straight grained and rot resistant, bald cypress wood is used for barrels, shingles, railroad ties, heavy construction (docks, bridges) and interior trim.

I hope this small bald cypress with its graceful, feathery branches survives at Ashland Pond.

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