Landscape Significance

Bald cypress grows in and along flowing water and is suitable for a rain garden.  Cypress trees are harvested for two major products: durable timber and landscape mulch.

Cypress swamps provide habitat to many wildlife species, including some that are rare and endangered. They also create a favorable habitat for large mammals, and many birds.

Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
This photo was taken in the fall at Trident Technical College, N. Charleston, SC.

A conifer native to coastal swamps, its foliage is fine and fernlike and turns color in the fall.  It sheds its leaves in winter, hence the “bald” cypress name. Cypress can live for hundred of years and is said to be the largest tree in North America east of the Rockies. In the United States, cypress's only other relatives are the Sequoia and Sequoiadendron genera, which include the redwoods of California.

Bald cypress grows to 150 feet tall and more than 6 feet in diameter. It can grow well on high ground, but its thin bark make it very susceptible to forest fires.

Identifying characteristics

Leafy branchlets have tiny, simple, flat, 1/2 to 3/4 inches long leaves (needles) growing at right angles on either side of the twig. Leaves are bright green in spring and coppery brown in fall. Trunks are flared at the bottom and look like folds of a skirt. Bark is gray, coarse, and peels in strips. On wet sites bald cypress forms aboveground structures known as "knees."