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SPECIES:  Taxodium ascendens, T. distichum
Pond cypress. Creative Commons image by Clinton Steeds from Los Angeles, USA. Bald cypress. Creative Commons image by Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State University,


SPECIES: Taxodium ascendens, T. distichum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Coladonato, Milo 1992. Taxodium ascendens, T. distichum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Updates: On 6 February 2018, the common and scientific names of these cpesies weere changed in FEIS from: Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium, pondcypress to: Taxodium ascendens, pond cypress, and from: Taxodium distichum var. distichum, baldcypress to: Taxodium distichum, bald cypress. Maps and images were also added. ABBREVIATION: TAXSPP TAXDIS TAXASC SYNONYMS: for Taxodium ascendens: Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium (Nuttall) Croom [34,56,59] Taxodium distichum. var. nutans (misapplied)[56,59,60] for Taxodium distichum: Taxodium distichum var. distichum [34,56,59] Taxodium distichum var. nutans (Ait.) Sweet [12,53] NRCS PLANT CODE: TADI2 TAAS COMMON NAMES: cypress pond cypress bald cypress white cypress Gulf cypress southern cypress red cypress swamp cypress yellow cypress TAXONOMY: This review covers two species of cypress (Taxodium): Taxodium ascendens Brogn. [26,47,57,58], pond cypress Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.[47], bald cypress Morphology: Pond cypress is less likely than bald cypress 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 bald cypress. Seedlings and fast-growing shoots of pond cypress, however, resemble those of bald cypress. Despite the usual differences in the two species, it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish them [39,53]. Habitat: Pond cypress grows in shallow ponds and wet areas westward only to southeastern Louisiana. It does not usually grow in rivers or stream swamps. Bald cypress 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 species collectively. LIFE FORM: Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Taxodium ascendens, T. distichum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Pond cypress is generally confined to areas from southeastern Virginia to southern Florida and southeastern Louisiana [11,18,36]. Bald cypress 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 [55].
Distribution of pond cypress and bald cypress, respectively. Maps courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [47]. [2018, February 6].
   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


   K089  Black Belt
   K090  Live oak- sea oats
   K091  Cypress savanna
   K092  Everglades
   K105  Mangrove
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest
   K113  Southern floodplain forest
   K114  Pocosin
   K115  Sand pine scrub
   K116  Subtropical pine forest

    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
   100  Pondcypress
   101  Baldcypress
   102  Baldcypress - tupelo
   103  Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
   104  Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
   106  Mangrove


Bald cypress has been included as an indicator or dominant in the
following vegetation types:

The phytosociology of the Green Swamp, North Carolina [32]
Southern mixed hardwood forest of north-central Florida [38]
Plant communities in the marshlands of southeastern Louisiana [41]
Plant communities of the Coastal Plain of North Carolina and their
   successional relations [52].


SPECIES: Taxodium ascendens, T. distichum
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE: Bald cypress wood is highly resistant to decay, making it valuable for a multitude of uses [8].  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: Bald cypress 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 [31]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY 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: Bald cypress has been successfully planted on the margins of surface- mined lakes in southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana, and western Kentucky [9]. Cypress swamps help to maintain high regional water tables, and they can also be used to provide advanced wastewater treatment for small communities [21].  Research has shown that cypress domes can serve as tertiary sewage treatment facilities for improving water quality and recharging groundwater [25]. Methods of collecting, extracting, cleaning, storing, and sowing bald cypress seeds to produce nursery-grown seedlings have been described [48,53]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: Bald cypress has been planted as a water tolerant tree species used for shading and canopy closure to help reduce populations of the Anopheles mosquito [5]. Bald cypress has been successfully planted throughout its range as an ornamental and along roadsides [11]. 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 [43]. Insects and disease:  The fungus Stereum taxodi causes brown pocket rot known as "pecky cypress" that attacks the heartwood of older living bald cypress 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 [53].  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].


SPECIES: Taxodium ascendens, T. 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, bald cypress 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 [11].  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 [21]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM:       Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Seed production and dispersal:  Bald cypress 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 [12,37,40]. 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 vigorously [10,24]. 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 pond cypress 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 ascendens, T. 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 ascendens, T. 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: NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Cypress will often sprout from the stump when top-killed by fire [49]. 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 ascendens, T. distichum
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