Cypress Trees by Charles Bohmfalk
There are several species of cypress trees that are found around Texas. The most common and well known is the bald cypress. It is known by several names: Gulf cypress, red cypress, southern cypress, swamp cypress, white cypress and yellow cypress. Bald cypress is a member of the Redwood family. They are native to swamps and rivers in east and central Texas. It can tolerate standing water or rather dry sites once established, but does best in wetter areas. They prefer acid to neutral soils. The bald cypress is a deciduous (loses its leaves in fall) conifer (cone bearing tree) that is widely planted in Texas as a shade tree. They are among the first trees in Texas to lose their leaves in the fall (hence the name “bald cypress”) and the last to bud in the spring. Bald cypress trees can grow to a height of up to 120 feet. Most live up to 600 years, but some individuals have survived as long as 1,200 years.
Bald cypress trees provide habitat for many animal species. Wild turkey, wood ducks, evening grosbeak and squirrels eat the seeds. Branches provide nesting places for bald eagles and osprey. Rotting knees are used as nesting cavities by warblers. Catfish spawn beneath cypress logs. Bald cypress diffuse and slow floodwaters, reducing flood damage. Cypress is also called the “wood eternal” because the heartwood is resistant to decay. Bald cypress is used for heavy construction, including docks, warehouses, boats and bridges, and was heavily logged in much of Texas. The Choctaw Indians used the bark for string and rope. The Seminoles found bald cypress useful for making houses, canoes, and ceremonial objects.
The Montezuma bald cypress is found from the Rio Grande River south to Guatemala; it is uncommon to rare in Texas. It is also known as: Mexican Cypress, Sabino, Ahuehuete, Cipres. The main difference between Montezuma bald cypress and bald cypress is that Montezuma bald cypress is evergreen and the male flowers are borne in long racemes, whereas common bald cypress is deciduous and the male flowers are in short clusters. Since far south Texas is the northernmost of its range, it has difficulty surviving winters north of San Antonio.
Arizona Cypress (also known as Arizona Rough Cypress, Cedro, Cedro Blanco, Rough Bark Arizona Cypress) is native to Texas only in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, but is widely cultivated as a specimen tree and for dense windbreaks in west Texas and the southern High Plains, and for erosion control in dry areas. It is a medium to large evergreen tree with small scale-like green, blue-gray to silver-blue leaves. It is compact, drought tolerant and fast-growing. It is adaptable to most areas of Texas.
The Italian Cypress is native to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea in its eastern region. The Italian Cypress is cultivated throughout the United States in areas with similar hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters as the Mediterranean Basin. The Italian Cypress has erect branches forming a narrow columnar habit of growth and is less than a tenth as wide as the tree is tall. The Italian Cypress has an extremely unique form that provides a classic distinction for Mediterranean themed landscapes, tall screens and framing accents.
Leylands are a popular privacy tree. They grow very fast and thicken to create a solid wall. It’s feathery texture is soft to the touch. Leyland cypress trees stay green all year-round, giving complete privacy.