1. Family: Cupressaceae Gray
    1. Genus: Taxodium Rich.
      1. Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.

        Bald cypress is a dominant tree in lowland river flood plains and swamps where it can form extensive forests of nearly pure stands. These habitats flood frequently, and this species develops characteristic ‘knees’ (pneumatophores) extending upwards from its submerged roots. In the southern USA its branches are commonly hung with the ‘air plant’ Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides). The genus Taxodium was widespread in America and Europe before the Ice Ages but then became extinct in Europe.

    [KSP]
    General Description
    Bald cypress is an iconic tree that epitomizes the southeastern USA for residents and visitors alike.

    Bald cypress is a dominant tree in lowland river flood plains and swamps where it can form extensive forests of nearly pure stands. These habitats flood frequently, and this species develops characteristic ‘knees’ (pneumatophores) extending upwards from its submerged roots. In the southern USA its branches are commonly hung with the ‘air plant’ Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides). The genus Taxodium was widespread in America and Europe before the Ice Ages but then became extinct in Europe.

    Species Profile

    Geography and distribution

    Taxodium distichum is native to eastern USA (Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, southernmost Illinois and Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, eastern Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, eastern Texas and Virginia). It is also widely planted as an ornamental tree outside its natural range.

    Description

    Bald cypress is a deciduous tree up to 46 m tall with a single, erect trunk and lateral branches. The base of the trunk is often swollen, fluted or buttressed. Erect, ‘breathing’ roots (conical pneumatophores) are common and numerous on the root systems of trees growing in or near water. The trunk bears fissured bark which is light brown, turning grey and peeling off in long, more or less fibrous, strips.

    The branches form a conical or pyramidal crown in young or cultivated trees. Older trees become increasingly flat-topped. The foliage shoots are 8−10 cm long, with leaves arranged in two ranks, and are shed in winter. The winter buds are spherical with 6−8 scales. The pollen cones are yellowish green turning purplish to brown and are borne singly or in pairs. The more or less spherical seed cones are often clustered and contain about 20−40 seeds per cone.

    Uses

    The soft, durable, straight-grained wood has many uses, in particular those for which decay-resistance is important, such as in the construction of houses, boats, flooring, barrels, river pilings and fences. This tree is also widely planted as an ornamental. In its native swamp forest ecosystem it provides food and nesting sites for rare birds and can help to regulate floods.

    This species at Kew

    Bald cypress can be seen growing along the north side of Kew’s Lake and Sackler Crossing and around the Palm House Pond.

    Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Taxodium distichum are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

    Specimens of the wood, roots and cones of bald cypress are held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Kew at the British Museum - North American Landscape

    Bald cypress ( Taxodium distichum) was one of 12 star plants featured in the 2012 North American Landscape - the fifth in the series created by Kew for the British Museum’s West Lawn.

    North American plants have global ecological and economic importance and have been utilised by native peoples for thousands of years. Many were introduced to Europe following the colonisation of North America in the early 1600s. Grown for their medicinal uses, as food crops and for other economic purposes, some species have also become familiar ornamental garden plants.

    The landscape was designed to evolve throughout the seasons - from a carpet of colourful daisies in the summer to spectacular orange and red maple leaves in the autumn. Other plantings included cypress, echinacea and carnivorous pitcher plants.

    Distribution
    USA
    Ecology
    Lowland river flood plains and swamps.
    Conservation
    Least concern according to IUCN Red List criteria.
    Hazards

    None known.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Construction, fencing, cooperage, ornamental.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guatemala, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southwest, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia

    Introduced Into:

    Argentina Northeast, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Romania, Uruguay

    Common Names

    English
    Bald cypress

    Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich. appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. 16: 298 (1810)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2012) Phytologia 94: 159-168
    • [3] Farjon, A. (2010) A handbook of the world's Conifers 2: 533-1111. BRILL, Leiden, Boston.
    • [5] Farjon, A. (2001) World Checklist and Bibliography of Conifers , ed. 2: 1-309. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [7] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1993) Flora Europaea ed. 2, 1: 1-581. Cambridge University Press.

    Literature

    • [2] Farjon, A. (2010). A Handbook of the World’s Conifers. Volume 2. E.J. Brill, Leiden & Boston.
    • [4] Farjon, A. (2005). A Monograph of Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [6] Conifer Specialist Group (1998). Taxodium distichum. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 12 March 2012.

    Sources

    International Plant Names Index
    The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
    [A] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [C]

    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [D] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [E] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index and World Checkist of Selected Plant Families. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0