Bald Cypress – Taxodium distichum

Bald Cypress knees
Bald Cypress knees

When I first saw this tree, with it’s knobby knees sticking up, I found myself puzzled and on the ground. I sat and stroked the knees trying to figure out what they were. Part of the root system never occurred to me! I just though what a strange way to reproduce…. Well we learn something everyday! Now the pond where the Bald Cypress grows is one of my favorite places….


This large tree of coastal swamps may live more than 12 centuries! It is one of the few conifers that sheds its leaves in the fall, and some of the roots send up knobby knees above the water level in order to ‘breath.’ It has been long valued for its woods durability and resistance to rot. Prehistoric wood has been found in swamps as far north as New Jersey, and is often used for carvings.

The Bald Cypress is extremely important to the swamp ecosystem. It provides food and shelter to a multitude of creatures. Canadian geese, cranes, and ducks to mention a few of the birds eat the seeds. Deer find shelter in hunting season in the cypress swamp.

Some authors don’t recognize the Taxodiaceae (bald-cypress family) as a distinct family and include its species in the family Cupressaceae, the true cypresses. But the Bald Cypress is not a true cypress being more closely related to the California Redwood (Sequoia semperviorens) and the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). There are two other Cypresses closely related…the Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens) and the Bald Cypress from Mexico and along the Rio Grande in Texas (Taxodium mucronatum).

The tree produces cones, but unlike most pines the cones form round, closed balls. The resin in the cones has been used to treat pain in wounds. (Analgesic action)


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