Saturday, January 17, 2009

BALDCYPRESS - Taxodium distichum, Linn., Richard

BALDCYPRESS IS A romantic tree. When we think of it we think of dark, mysterious swamps. But while it will grow under conditions too wet for most other trees, it will also grow on high, dry land. It makes a beautiful and unusual ornamental tree. While its natural range in Missouri is the southeast lowlands, it can be grown at least as far north as a line from Hannibal to Kansas City.

Both redwood and the dawn redwood (Metasequoia) are related to cypress. It is a very ancient tree with ancestors dating back to the coal age--and might be called a living fossil. With the drainage and clearing of swamps, cypress is much less common today than it was in the past.

Cypress is an "evergreen" tree that is not evergreen. Like the hardwoods, its needles turn yellow in the fall and are shed. These needles are a rich green in summer and give a soft, graceful texture to the foliage. When the needles fall, the raised needles scars make the slender twigs feel bumpy, which helps identify them in the winter months.

The cone is round with tightly closed scales which average one inch in diameter, a key identifying feature.Swamp-grown cypress are typified by swollen, often fluted butts. The knees, aerial projection of the roots, develop on older trees apparently to supply oxygen to water-logged roots. These knees are often artistically shaped and are frequently used for lamp bases and novelty items.

Soft, beautifully grained and durable cypress wood makes excellent lumber. Both solid and pecky cypress lumber is widely used for paneling and furnishings. It makes fine construction and siding lumber and its durability makes it suitable for use in piers, bridges, and boats.

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