Bald cypress a Louisiana icon


If there is an icon of Louisiana, it is the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum). It is as Louisiana as pirogues, crawfish or a fais do do on Saturday night.


Bald Cypress is our state tree, and rightly so. It naturally grows and outcompetes other tree species on wet sites. And Louisiana has a lot of wet sites.


Louisiana forms the ultimate delta of the mighty Mississippi and other rivers and bayous, such as the Red, Ouachita, and others, as the waters head for the Gulf through Louisiana. So we have a lot of sites for cypress to grow.


And it does.


Bald cypress is related to the redwood of the West Coast. It is a conifer but is deciduous and loses its needle-like small leaves in fall. It sheds its leaves before most deciduous trees and grows them back later in the spring. Hence the name bald. Cypress is slow growing and long-lived, sometimes hundreds of years old. It has a colorful fall foliage. It is tolerant of variable environmental conditions and is planted on a variety of sites.


Under flooded growing conditions it has a fluted base and knees, a distinctive morphological feature, that grow vertically from the roots. They may provide oxygen to the underwater subsoil roots or just provide support for the tree.