Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bald Cypress

Taxodium distichum, like Metasequoia, is a deciduous conifer: unlike most cone-bearing trees, its changes color and drops its leaves in the fall. The feathery leaves are made of needles that appear two-ranked but are actually arranged spirally on branchlets.

The globular cones are covered with peltate scales.

Here are two bald cypresses side by side. The far one has turned red ahead of its neighbor.

Bald cypress has a conical shape when young. At maturity, it has a more cylindrical form with a rounded top. Bald cypress is also called swamp cypress because of its occurrence in low, wet land. When it grows near or in water, woody knobs protrude up from the roots. These "knees" were thought to help with oxygen intake, but the current dominant theory is that they help provide stability in loose substrates.

These cones are closer to maturity.

Behind each scale, there are two seeds. Although bald cypresses are known for their ability to live in flood-prone areas, seeds immersed in water will not germinate. Seedlings have to establish themselves in well-drained or saturated soil before they are able to survive in standing water.

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