The Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)

Height: 100 feet or more.   

Evergreen/Deciduous: Deciduous  

Lifespan: Capable of reaching remarkable ages, sometimes exceeding 2,000 years.  

Fall Foliage: Ranging from yellowish to a rusty brownish red.    

Range: Primarily a tree of the southeast coastal plain, but it follows the Mississippi River Valley northward to Illinois.   

Typical Habitat: Usually found in wet, low-lying areas, but adapts to drier uplands.   

The Bald Cypress: The Deciduous Denizen of Wet Places   

As noted above, the bald cypress is deciduous, making it one of the relatively few conifers to exhibit this pattern. That, taken along with its attractive growth form and bark, make it nearly as beautiful in the winter as it is the summer. For that matter, they have pretty attractive fall coloration – they’re no maple trees, but they’re nice.

The cypress tree can adapt to upland locations (especially when deliberately planted by landowners) but its naturally found in low-lying areas. Swamps and riparian areas are often littered with these trees, and when they grow in these areas, the trees produce woody “knees” that emerge from the water.  

Frustratingly, the purpose of the knees remains unclear.   

Bald Cypress Identification: Tips & Tricks

You’re unlikely to confuse the bald cypress with anything but other cypress species, where they occur. If the feathery leaves, cones, or bark aren’t enough, just look for the knees growing from the water (obviously, this won’t help with deliberately planted trees in upland locations).  

The Bald Cypress: Additional Information

Kneed (get it?) more info on the bald cypress? Here you go!

  • Conifers.Org: The preeminent resource for all things gymnosperm, you can find everything you want to know about bald cypresses here.    
  • Lady Bird Wildflower Center: All of the basic information you would want about this species, in easily digestible form.
  • Conservation Garden Park: Basic information, including images of the tree in all four seasons.

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