The bald cypress is a tree that is found mostly in swampy or wet conditions along the U.S. eastern and southern coasts, and is characterized by linear leaves that spread out on the branches and are arranged in two ranks on opposite sides of the stem. Unlike most needle-bearing trees, the bald cypress is deciduous, which means it looses its needles each year. In perfect or imperfect conditions, the bald cypress can grow quite fast and live a long time.
A bald cypress tree can grow to be as tall as 40 or 50 feet in the first 15 to 25 years of life. Younger trees grow quickly, but slow down as they age. These trees can grow to be at least 100 feet tall, and sometimes get as tall as 150 feet. The trunk can get to at least 10 feet in diameter when completely mature, and the bald cypress can live for at least 500 years.
Acidic soils are best for bald cypress trees, but it's a pretty hardy tree that seems to be able to thrive in all soil types. In fact, according to floridata.com, bald cypresses don't usually get to grow in optimum conditions. Bald cypress trees can survive long periods of flooding or can handle dry, less nutrient soil and still grow just as well in both environments.
The Big Ones
Floridata.com reports that two of the largest bald cypress trees are in Louisiana and Florida. In the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, there sits a bald cypress that is only 83 feet tall, but is 17 feet in diameter and a crown spread of 85 feet, making it the largest bald cypress by volume in the Bayou State. But that pales in comparison to "The Senator," which is in Seminole County, Florida. This bald cypress is 118 feet tall with a truck of 11 feet in diameter and a crown spread of 57 feet.
Bald cypress trees occur most naturally in areas where they'll get a lot of water, most notably swamps, floodplains, lakes and rivers. They occur the most on the eastern U.S. coastline from Delaware to south Texas. They are also prevalent along the Mississippi River basin, stretching from the mouth near New Orleans all the way up to Illinois.
Bald cypress has earned a nickname--the eternal wood. For reasons that aren't completely clear, the bald cypress is extremely resistant to decay. Once construction experts figured that out, bald cypress became an in-demand wood for projects such as docks, bridges, boats and buildings. Thanks to clear-cutting of bald cypress forests, there are far fewer numbers of these trees, especially ones that are very old.
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