Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a deciduous conifer native to much of the coastal souteastern United States. Bald cypress is one of the few conifers that is deciduous, dropping its yellow needles in the fall. It is well suited to extremely wet conditions and is often found growing naturally in swamps, bogs, streams and other areas of high moisture. It can also grow in drier areas and is commonly used in landscaping.
The species can be found in USDA hardiness zones 5-10. The trunk grows thick at the base, even when young. It is fast-growing and can add 1 - 2 feet of new growth per year, reaching up to 50 feet in height in less than 25 years. When growing in standing water, bald cypress will frequently send up large root projections (pneumatophores) , called "knees," around the base of the tree above the surface of the water.
The leaves of the bald cypress are compound and feathery, made up of many small leaflets that are thin and lance-shaped. Each leaflet is less than two inches long, alternating along either side of a central stem. The leaf color is green during the growing season and turns to a yellowish to copper in the fall. The bark is brown, relatively thin and fibrous. The fruit are small oval cones, one to three inches in length and between 1/2 inch and 1 inch in width. They are brown, dry, hard and made up of overlapping scales that conceal tiny seeds.
Bald cypress can grow to 100 feet in height and can spread to 35 feet in width. The base of the tree is often wide and buttressed, leading to a narrow, tall leader trunk. The branches radiate from the central trunk and tend to droop. The crown of the tree is pyramid-shaped, symmetrical and upright.
This is an interesting tree for the home landscape, as it is tall, straight, elegant, stately and visually interesting. It can grow in many soil types, even clay.