Said to be the largest native North American tree to grow east of the Rockies, the spectacular bald cypress is right at home in south Florida’s inland marshes and wetlands.
This majestic tree can live as long as 500 years, eventually reaching towering heights of 100 feet or more. Pyramid-shaped or conical when young, older bald cypress trees often develop wide, spreading crowns as they age.
Bald cypress has many distinctive features that make it an attractive addition to large residential or commercial landscapes. The dark or reddish brown bark peels away in strips, and in wet settings the trunks are often buttressed with prominent “knees.” Although scientists have many theories about the purpose of cypress knees, their true function remains unknown.
Bald cypress has flat, green, needle-like leaves arranged in opposite rows on slender stems and develops golf ball-sized cones at the terminal ends. Unusual for a needle-bearing conifer, the bald cypress also loses its foliage in the winter. In late summer to early fall, the leaves turn orange, rusty brown and red, creating a spectacular show before dropping. The bald cypress provides abundant shade in the summer months and allows winter sunlight to shine through its bare boughs.
Although bald cypress is one of the few trees that can withstand regular flooding, it will also thrive in dry or average non-acidic soils. Young saplings can tolerate some shade, but bald cypress requires plentiful sun to reach its full potential.
Young trees grow quickly under ideal conditions. The feathery summer foliage and vivid fall color of bald cypress makes this tree a uniquely Floridian addition in spaces where it has room to grow.