Bald Cypress

Media
Illustration of bald cypress leaves and cones.
Scientific Name
Taxodium distichum
Family
Cupressaceae (cypresses)
Description

Bald cypress is a large tree up to 130 feet tall, with a swollen base. The growth habit is pyramidal, or else with an open, flat-topped crown. Often has cone-shaped “knees” emerging from roots of the tree if growing in water. Loses its leaves in the fall.

Leaves are needlelike, opposite, in 2 rows along small twigs. Each leaf is ¼–¾ inch long, flat, linear, green, turning reddish brown in autumn. Leaves are shed in autumn still attached to the small twigs.

Bark is cinnamon brown to gray, thick, with long, narrow grooves and flat, long ridges that peel off in fibrous, narrow strips.

Twigs are light green on new growth, turning reddish brown with age, smooth, flexible. Side twigs green, falling with leaves still attached.

Flowers March–April. Male and female cones are found on the same tree.

Fruit, ripening October–November, is a round cone 1 inch in diameter, green changing to purple, with tightly closed, shield-shaped scales that turn woody and brown and open at maturity to release seeds.

Common Name Synonyms
Baldcypress
Size
Height: to 130 feet.
Where To Find
image of Bald Cypress Distribution Map
The natural distribution is the swampy, wet areas of Missouri’s Bootheel, but this tree is widely planted and naturalized elsewhere.
Occurs in swamps, sloughs, and wet bottomland forests; widely planted as an ornamental. The oldest bald cypress trees in Missouri can be found at Allred Lake Natural Area, where they range from 500 to 1,000 years old — this is the last remaining stand of old-growth bald cypress in the state.
A popular ornamental, this tree was planted in European landscapes as early as 1640. Its majestic form graces many large public landscapes. The soft, durable wood has been used for paneling, construction lumber, barrels, caskets, boats, shingles, railroad ties, fence posts, and bridge beams.
Many birds, including wood ducks, eat the seeds. In addition to providing food for wildlife, large trees provide habitat as well, supporting in their boughs nests of many species and becoming crucial habitat for more animals after the trees die, fall, and begin to rot on the forest floor.
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Where to See Species

The boat ramp closes when the river reads 33' on the Cape Girardeau river gauge. The boat ramp is not usable when the Mississippi River is at or below 8' on the Cape Girardeau river gauge.

Ben Cash Memorial Conservation Area is in Dunklin county, six miles west of Highway 412 on Route A. The Route A and Highway 412 junction is three miles south of Kennett.

About Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines in Missouri
There are no sharp dividing lines between trees, shrubs, and woody vines, or even between woody and nonwoody plants. “Wood” is a type of tissue made of cellulose and lignin that many plants develop as they mature — whether they are “woody” or not. Trees are woody plants over 13 feet tall with a single trunk. Shrubs are less than 13 feet tall, with multiple stems. Vines require support or else sprawl over the ground.