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Bald Cypress: The State Tree of Louisiana

My grandpa loved gardening. I learned much from him. To this day I enjoy puttering around in our garden, growing plants for beauty and food.

Bald cypress trees in the fall

Bald cypress trees in the fall

Many bald cypress trees grow in eastern areas of Texas (where I live), including Houston and all along the upper Gulf Coast, for that matter. Generally speaking, they grow best in temperate regions with high humidity and places where the soils are often moist or even seasonally flooded. They thrive in swampy areas and can tolerate almost any type of soil condition—even saline.

Known taxonomically as Taxodium distichum, these trees can grow in more northern regions if planted and tended, but they prefer locales that are hot and moist. Bald cypress trees typically grow in zones four to ten in the more humid climates.

This deciduous conifer tree from the cypress family Cupressaceae sheds its light feathery foliage during the winter months, first turning a burnt orange, tan, or rusty color. You will find them growing in full sunlight to partially shady conditions.

The State Tree of Louisiana

As mentioned in the title, the bald cypress is the official state tree of Louisiana. The southern border of Louisiana adjoins the Gulf of Mexico. The mighty Mississippi River disgorges its flow at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after a 2,320-mile journey from its origin way up in Minnesota.

There are many swampy and wetland areas in Louisiana, and the bald cypress tree does well there. These trees thrive in the water, but they can also live on land above water as long as conditions are right.

You can see how swampy and marsh-like the southern border of Louisiana is by viewing the map below. Estuaries and marshes punctuate that southern region and are vital for the sea creatures and other birds and animals that call it home. They also help to maintain the stability of grounds further north.

Location of Louisiana in the United States

Man Versus Nature

Most people know that much of the city of New Orleans now depends upon levees. Those levees keep city residents from having their homes and businesses flooded by rising waters, hurricanes, or the flooding of the Mississippi River. That is because a significant portion of New Orleans is now below sea level.

Many people are aware of the horrific effects of those levees breaking when Hurricane Katrina zeroed in on New Orleans and made southern Louisiana its target. Many individuals who were displaced now live permanently in Houston or other areas.

Anchoring trees like the bald cypress, which can live in marshes, can be vital sources of stabilization for the land by holding it in place and potentially preventing further erosion. It is no wonder that the state of Louisiana prizes this hardy and beautiful tree.

Fascinating Trees With Knees

The bald cypress also has other descriptive names, including southern cypress, swamp cypress, and red cypress. On one of our vacation trips, my mother and I saw numerous bald cypress trees growing in the swampy areas around Caddo Lake in eastern Texas near the Louisiana border.

One distinctive feature of this tree is its knees. These outgrowths, which tend to grow around the tree as shown in the photos here, are thought to buttress the tree and possibly help keep it upright. Pneumatophore is the technical name for these knees.

Some people believed that these knees provided extra oxygen to the trees, but scientific support for this idea does not exist. It is much more likely that the knees help support the trees and prevent toppling in high winds or storms. Interestingly, man has learned from nature how to use architectural buttresses similar to bald cypress knees to help support many buildings that otherwise might not stand.

Additional Fun Facts

  • Many of these trees are long-lived and can easily reach the 600-year mark if not cut down for lumber. Because the mature older trees' heartwood resists decay and rot, the lumber is prized for building purposes, including everything from roofing shingles and fencing to the finest of furniture-making and more.
  • According to a source listed below, the oldest living tree in the United States is in the state of North Carolina. It is 2,624 years of age!
  • They can grow quite tall—up to 100 feet or more. There are now many other cultivars, and some of them are dwarf-sized.
  • We see quite a few bald cypress trees planted in yards and also in our subdivision in the greenbelt area of Houston. They are easy to spot because of their short, needle-like leaves and their distinctive pyramidal shape. When fully leafed out, they can provide dense shade and sanctuaries for birds, squirrels, and other creatures.
  • Each tree has male and female reproductive parts, and propagation generally occurs via animals eating and distributing the seeds. The seeds also float in the water and are spread that way.
  • Bald cypress trees are resistant to most damage caused by insects and fungi.

Sources

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxodium_distichum
  • https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Plants-and-Fungi/Bald-Cypress
  • https://conifersociety.org/conifers/articles/bald-cypress-a-great-tree-for-the-home-landscape/
  • https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/misc/ag_654/volume_1/taxodium/distichum.htm

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Peggy Woods

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 24, 2019:

Hi Patricia,

We have many bald cypress trees growing here in the Houston area. It does not surprise me that objects are made from the wood of these trees. Sending warm wishes your way today.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 23, 2019:

Just recently I was walking in an area where I meandered down to a spot where these unusual trees were in abundance. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I have been fascinated with them since my first encounter here in Florida. I must admit it kind of bothers me (a lot) to see the made into knick knacky obects and furniture. Sending Angels your way this afternoon. ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 29, 2019:

Hi Dale,

This bald cypress tree would not be one you would typically see in Arizona, but I am happy to be able to share information about it with you.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on May 29, 2019:

That's a fine looking tree! Living on a boat and having a home in Arizona, I tend to have a soft spot for trees because I don't have enough of them in my life.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 16, 2018:

Hi Rajan,

We have many bald cypress trees growing in and around the Houston area. I am glad you found this topic interesting.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on September 15, 2018:

The Cypress tree is majestic and looks beautiful in the fall. We do not have them growing here and it is interesting to learn about how beneficial it is to maintain the stability of the ecosystem.

Thank you for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 08, 2018:

Hi Patricia,

These bald cypress trees are indeed amazing. We see many of them growing in our part of the country. Sending good wishes your way!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 08, 2018:

From the time I first found these in Florida they have fascinated me. I cannot pass by them without being in awe. They just have that magic that draws me in. You shared more than I knew...thank you.

Angels once again headed your way ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 13, 2017:

Hi Patricia,

From my early childhood days of climbing trees to now, I have always admired them. Until moving to Texas, I had never seen a bald cypress tree. They are very different from the types of trees that grow in northern climes. Thanks for the good wishes!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 13, 2017:

Just adore these trees...I do not recall if I have ever mentioned it but I believe I was a tree in a previous life because I am so enchanted by them. I had never seen these amazing trees till I came to Florida and have been mesmerized by them ever since. You have shared much that I did not know about them. Once again Angels are headed your way ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 17, 2016:

Hi Patricia,

We have many bald cypress trees that thrive in and around Houston. In fact we have numerous ones planted right here in our subdivision. I love their feathery foliage when leafed out. In the wintertime they lose all their leaves...thus the "bald" name is deserved.

Understandable that your eyes would have been more on the water when driving though Louisiana...especially on Interstate 10 which is right along the water in so many places.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 17, 2016:

O these are a favorite of mine in my adopted home state (I grew up my first 18 years in Virginia so still claim it as my HOME state but FL is high on my list too :D). There are many locations near where I live where I can go to enjoy these beauties.

I was so busy looking at all of the water and bridges as I traveled through LA last year that I missed these beauties there.

As always your articles always fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Thanks for helping to keep me in the know. Once again our little winged friends are headed your way ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 23, 2016:

Hi Au fait,

I am sure that cypress tree knees can be made into beautiful pieces of art. My website is up and operating. After fooling around for an entire year I finally went with a professional and had it up and operating in no time. It will be added to continually. As to my experience...my advice is to hire a professional! Stay safe up there! We have a 20 to 30% chance of rain daily but it goes up significantly on Friday of this week then tapers off. Thanks for the shares.

C E Clark from North Texas on May 23, 2016:

Lots of information and great photos! As always. :) Yes cypress trees are a staple in the deep South. I first learned about them in high school when a friend showed me pictures and actually had some of the cypress knees in his possession. I think some people carve them into art forms and use them to make natural arrangements for decoration. Going to share this article with followers and pin it to Awesome HubPages.

Excellent article as always. Wondering how your website is going? You really need to write about your experience with that so we can all learn from your adventure.

We have had way too much rain this year. We're warned well ahead again that this coming weekend, Thurs. through Monday, we're to have severe storms.

Hope all is well down there. Take care . . .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 31, 2016:

Hi Dolores,

When leafed out they do have an evergreen appearance but we both know that they are not...thus the 'bald' name for at least a portion of the year. Nice that you are enjoying them up in your area. We have loads of them down here.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on March 30, 2016:

I love bald cypress trees. They look so archaic! We have them growing in a few spots up here in Maryland. It looks like people still have a problem understanding that they are not evergreens. But they do look like evergreens, much like Dawn Redwoods. Maybe it's because they are coniferous.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 29, 2016:

Hi DDE,

I assumed as much. Hope you have a good day today! :)

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 29, 2016:

Hi Peggy Woods that is exactly what I meant!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 26, 2016:

Hi DDE,

We have those tall slender growing cypress trees like those grown in Italy and elsewhere also growing in Houston. Those are probably the ones you meant? They are very different from the bald cypress trees.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 25, 2016:

Hi Frank,

We certainly do need our trees to keep producing oxygen into the air not to mention their beauty and haven for wildlife, etc. Nice to know you enjoyed this.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 24, 2016:

Hi Alicia,

The bald cypress tree can actually survive growing in swampy water all the time as well as growing in places that are not water logged. So glad you found this informative enough to share. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 23, 2016:

Hi Nell,

Yes...the knees certainly make the bald cypress trees distinctive. Glad you liked learning about them.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 23, 2016:

Hi emge,

Glad you enjoyed the information about these trees.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 23, 2016:

FlourishAnyway,

I can understand why you would remember this type of tree with the "knees" even if a long time ago. Most distinctive!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 23, 2016:

We have tall Cyprus trees and so different from the Bald Cypress

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 22, 2016:

I didn't really know anything about this tree, but your hub bridges that gap for me.. enjoy them now all trees.. while they are still here :( great share Peggy W

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 22, 2016:

I've learned some very interesting facts about the bald cypress tree by reading this article. I didn't know that it grew in such wet soil and that it had knees! Thanks for sharing the information, Peggy. I'll share this hub.

Nell Rose from England on March 22, 2016:

A tree with knees! lol! well I learned something new! what a great hub!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 22, 2016:

Hi Peggy, lots of information. Thank you

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 21, 2016:

I used to live in Louisiana and remember tree like this. It's been a long time, however. Good article! You're on fire with productivity! Way to go!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2016:

Hi Jackie,

Happy to be able to inform you as to what those protuberances or "knees" were as related to the bald cypress. It is an interesting tree to be sure.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 21, 2016:

I have some knee photos I took near a lake and wondered what on earth they were! So now I know. Thank you!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2016:

Hi Perspycacious,

The Bald Cypress looks like it is evergreen but it is a deciduous tree so it does lose all its leaves here in the Houston area...thus the "bald" moniker. You are smart to be growing fruit and nut trees which supply your family with all their needs. We have a small orange tree in our yard and it is loaded with blossoms. Hopefully we will have our first big crop this year. Looking forward to it.

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on March 21, 2016:

I wouldn't have imagined any evergreen tree being "bald"! Good article and I see you have some others on landscaping. I, for one, prefer to plant fruit and nut trees. Ours now give us a "year's supply" of those each year.

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