Baldcypress and relatives are naturals for Louisiana landscapes

Allen D. Owings, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J., Claesgens, Mark A.  |  10/1/2008 7:15:31 PM

Baldcypress is one of the top five tree species planted in Louisiana landscapes. (Click image to download. Photo by Mark Claesgens.)

News You Can Use – Sustainable Landscapes, Distributed 10/01/08

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists

Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) is Louisiana’s state tree, and it is one of our featured trees at LaHouse on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. As one of our most distinguished native trees, it is one of the top five tree species planted in Louisiana landscapes.

Baldcypress is native from the coastal states along the Atlantic Ocean over to east Texas and north to the middle Mississippi River valley. It is commonly associated with the swamps of the Gulf Coast.

Unlike other members of the redwood family that are usually evergreen, the baldcypress is deciduous, losing its foliage in the winter. Trees can reach heights of 100-120 feet at maturity and have a narrow, upright growth habit. Some trees can have trunk diameters of 5 feet or more, but 2-3 feet is most common.

Baldcypress performs best when planted in full to partial sun. It can readily adapt to highland areas, bottomland areas and standing water (once established); in other words, it has the ability to adapt to wet and dry soil conditions and varying soil textures, including compacted soil.

The baldcypress has been named a Louisiana Select plant by the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association and the LSU AgCenter. Trees are available at garden centers in 3- to 30-gallon containers.

The tree grows fast for the first 10 years. Fertilize annually in late winter/early spring for the first three to five years with an 8-8-8 or 13-13-13 fertilize. You can fertilize every two to three years thereafter, assuming your native soil is moderately fertile.

Baldcypress trees produce “knees,” which are cone-shaped structures that grow from underground or submerged roots. Knees are more prone to develop in clay soils rather than silt- or sand-based soils. Also, knees are more prone to develop on trees growing in water compared to trees growing on dry land. Where the knees are undesirable or cause problems, they can be sawed off below the soil surface without hurting the tree. Remove them as necessary.

Some trees are similar to the Louisiana baldcypress. One is the pond cypress (Taxodium distichum var. nutans), which has finer-textured foliage and grows more upright. New spring growth is vibrant, and most trees have attractive rusty-brown fall foliage that lingers into early to mid-December in South Louisiana.

We also have limited availability of the Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum), which is native to northern Mexico. It is mostly evergreen in Louisiana, but it does not produce the cypress knees to which we are accustomed. An exciting new hybrid cross between Montezuma and baldcypress is the Nanjing Beauty.

Louisiana has the national champion baldcypress. Some of those beauties, which are more than 1,000 years old, are located at Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge located in a bend on the Mississippi River just north of Baton Rouge. The area is flooded part of the year, but the national champion tree is accessible during dry times. It has a diameter of 16.5 feet with a girth of 49 feet. The tree is 83 feet tall with an 85-foot spread.

Baldcypress is a definite asset to the landscape. Add Louisiana’s state tree to your landscape if you have not already done so. Fall is a great time to plant trees.

LaHouse is located near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (La. Highway 30) in Baton Rouge across the street from the new LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.louisianahouse.org and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

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Contacts:
Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or dgill@agcenter.lsu.edu
Allen D. Owings at (985) 543-4125 or aowings@agcenter.lsu.edu
John Young at (225) 578-2415 or 578-2222 or JoYoung@agcenter.lsu.edu

Editor: Mark Claesgens at (225) 578-2939 or mclaesgens@agcenter.lsu.edu

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