Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Taxodium distichum
SPECIES: Taxodium distichum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Coladonato, Milo 1992. Taxodium distichum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
for Taxodium distichum var. distichum:
Taxodium distichum var. nutans (Ait.) Sweet [12,53]
for Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium (Nuttall) Croom [56,59]
Taxodium ascendens Brogn. [26,57,58]
Taxodium distichum. var. nutans (misapplied)[56,59,60]
NRCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name for baldcypress is Taxodium
distichum L. Rich. The species is divided into two commonly recognized
varieties that are differentiated by morphology, habitat, and distribution [34,56,59]:
Taxodium distichum var. distichum, baldcypress
Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium (Nuttall) Croom, pondcypress
Morphology: Pondcypress is less likely than baldcypress to have knees,
and when it does have them, they are shorter and more rounded. Its
fluted base tends to have rounded rather than sharp ridges and its bark
is usually more coarsely ridged. Its branches are more ascending than
those of baldcypress. Seedlings and fast-growing shoots of pondcypress,
however, are much like the typical variety of baldcypress. Despite the usual
differences in the two varieties, it is sometimes very difficult to
distinguish them [39,53].
Habitat: Pondcypress grows in shallow ponds and wet areas westward only to
southeastern Louisiana. It does not usually grow in rivers or stream
swamps. Baldcypress is more widespread and typical of the species. Its range
extends westward into Texas and northward into Illinois and Indiana [12,53].
The name "cypress" is used in this review when referring to both
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Taxodium distichum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Baldcypress grows along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from southern
Delaware to southern Florida, westward along the lower Gulf Coast Plain
to southeastern Texas almost to the Mexican border. Inland, it grows
along streams of the Southeastern States and north in the Mississippi
Valley to southeastern Oklahoma, southeastern Missouri, southern
Illinois, and southwestern Indiana [11,18,36]. It is cultivated in
Hawaii . Pondcypress is generally confined to areas from
southeastern Virginia to southern Florida and southeastern Louisiana
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
AL AR DE FL GA HI IL IN KY LA
MD MS MO NC OK SC TN TX VA
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K089 Black Belt
K090 Live oak- sea oats
K091 Cypress savanna
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K115 Sand pine scrub
K116 Subtropical pine forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
74 Cabbage palmetto
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
84 Slash pine
85 Slash pine - hardwood
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
97 Atlantic white cedar
98 Pond pine
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Baldcypress has been included as an indicator or dominant in the
following vegetation types:
The phytosociology of the Green Swamp, North Carolina 
Southern mixed hardwood forest of north-central Florida 
Plant communities in the marshlands of southeastern Louisiana 
Plant communities of the Coastal Plain of North Carolina and their
successional relations .
SPECIES: Taxodium distichum
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Baldcypress wood is highly resistant to decay, making it valuable for a
multitude of uses . It is used in building construction, fence
posts, planking in boats, doors, blinds, flooring, shingles, caskets,
interior trim, and cabinetry [11,46,51].
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Baldcypress seeds are eaten by wild turkey, wood ducks, evening
grosbeak, and squirrels. The seed is a minor part of the diet of
waterfowl and wading birds. Yellow-throated warblers forage in the
Spanish moss often found hanging on the branches of old cypress trees
[4,48,53]. Cypress domes provide watering places for a variety of
birds, mammals, and reptiles of the surrounding pinelands .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
COVER VALUE :
The tops of cypress trees provide nesting sites for bald eagles and
ospreys. Warblers use the old decaying knees for nesting cavities, and
catfish spawn below cypress logs. Cypress domes provide breeding sites
for a number of frogs, toads, and salamanders. Cypress domes also
provide nesting sites for herons and egrets [22,30].
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Baldcypress has been successfully planted on the margins of surface-
mined lakes in southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana, and western
Cypress swamps help to maintain high regional water tables, and they can
also be used to provide advanced wastewater treatment for small
communities . Research has shown that cypress domes can serve as
tertiary sewage treatment facilities for improving water quality and
recharging groundwater .
Methods of collecting, extracting, cleaning, storing, and sowing
baldcypress seeds to produce nursery-grown seedlings have been
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Baldcypress has been planted as a water tolerant tree species used for
shading and canopy closure to help reduce populations of the Anopheles
Baldcypress has been successfully planted throughout its range as an
ornamental and along roadsides .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Silviculture: Canopy thinning has been reported as the best management
practice for regenerating cypress. Thinning controls competition and
allows overhead light for newly germinated seedlings [20,53].
Animal damage: The swamp rodent nutria often clips or uproots newly
planted cypress seedlings before the root systems are fully established,
thus killing the seedlings. When nutria populations are high, entire
plantings are often destroyed in a few days .
Insects and disease: The fungus Stereum taxodi causes brown pocket rot
known as "pecky cypress" that attacks the heartwood of older living
baldcypress trees. The fungus most often gains entrance in the crown
and works its way down, destroying a considerable part of the heartwood
at the base of the tree . The forest tent caterpillar (Malacosma
disstria) and fruit-tree leafroller (Archips argyrospila) larvae webb
and feed on cypress needles as soon as the buds break and small leaflets
expand, causing dieback and sometimes mortality [27,53].
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Taxodium distichum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Cypress is a large-sized, native, deciduous, conifer, frequently 100 to
120 feet (30-37 m) in height. It is slow growing and very long-lived.
Individual trees have been reported up to 1,200 years old in Georgia and
South Carolina [19,26]. In the forest, baldcypress typically has a
broad, irregular crown, often draped in curtains and streams of gray
Spanish moss. The trunks of older trees are massive, tapering, and
particularly when growing in swamps, buttressed at the base . The
deciduous leaves are linear and flat with blades mostly spreading,
fastened alternately around the twig. Cypress is monoecious with its
male and female flowers forming slender tasslelike structures near the
edge of the branchlets [10,53]. The bark of cypress is usually quite
thin and fibrous with an interwoven pattern of narrow flat ridges and
narrow furrows. Cypress develops a taproot as well as horizontal roots
that lie just below the surface and extend 20 to 50 feet (6-15 m) before
bending down [19,21].
Knees: Cypress knees are a unique polymorphic structure of cypress
trees. They start out as small swellings on the upper surface of a
horizontal root and then protrude above the mud and water providing
extra needed support. They vary in height from 1 to 12 feet (0.3-3.7 m)
depending on the level of the water .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Seed production and dispersal: Baldcypress produces seed every year,
and good seed production occurs at intervals of about 3 years
[15,20,53]. Because of the large size of the seeds and the relatively
small wing size, cypress seeds are not dispersed to any distance by the
wind. Flood waters disperse the seed along rivers and streams
Seedling development: The exact requirements for moisture immediately
after seed dispersal seems to be the key to the survival and
distribution of cypress. Under swamp conditions, the best seed
germination generally takes place on a sphagnum moss or a wet-muck
seedbed. An abundant supply of moisture for a period of 1 to 3 months
after seedfall is required for germination. Seed covered with water for
as long as 30 months may germinate when the water recedes. On better
drained soils, seed usually fails to germinate successfully because of
the lack of surface water [10,16,53].
Vegetative reproduction: After disturbance, cypress will sprout from
the stumps of young trees. Trees up to 60 years of age send up healthy
sprouts. Trees up to 200 years of age may also sprout but not very
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Cypress is usually restricted to very wet soils consisting of muck,
clay, or fine sand where moisture is abundant and fairly permanent
[1,3,38]. More than 90 percent of the natural cypress stands are found
on flat or nearly flat topography at elevations less than 100 feet (30
m) above sea level. The upper limits of its growth in the Mississippi
Valley is at an elevation of about 500 feet (152 m) [6,13,28].
Common tree associates of bald and pondcypress are: American elm (Ulmus
americana), water hickory (Carya aquatica), red maple (Acer rubrum),
green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), sugarberry (Celtis laevigata),
sweetgum (Liquidambar sylvatica), loblolly-bay (Gordonia lasianthus),
and sweetbay (Magnolia virginia) [39,42,53].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Cypress swamps represent an edaphic climax; they are held almost
indefinitely in a subfinal stage of succession by physiographic
conditions [17,38,42]. Cypress is intermediate in shade tolerance.
Best growth occurs under a high degree of overhead light, but the tree
persists under partial shade [17,20,51,53].
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
The flower buds of cypress trees appear in late December or early
January. The flowers appear in March and April; fruit ripens from
October through December [7,29].
SPECIES: Taxodium distichum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Ecology: Because of its edaphic and physiographic requirements (See
Site Characteristics), cypress is usually protected from fire [2,30].
Adaptation: The thin bark of cypress trees offers little protection
against fire and, during years of drought when swamps are dry, fire
kills great quantities of cypress [11,50].
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Taxodium distichum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Under drought conditions, peat fires that burn below the surface of the
organic soil may kill the roots of cypress trees, thus killing the
plant. A peat fire in the Okefenokee swamp in Florida killed 97 percent
of the cypress trees in a 3,000-acre plot (1,214 ha) [14,45].
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Cypress will often sprout from the stump when top-killed by fire .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Fire is not recommended as a management tool for maintaining cypress
stands. Severe fires after logging or drainage may destroy seeds and
roots in the soil, favoring replacement of cypress by willows (Salix
spp.) and subsequent hardwoods [21,49].
SPECIES: Taxodium distichum
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