Suggested Use: Wetlands, Wildlife, and Natural Areas
Tolerate: Black Walnut, Wet Soils and Deer
If you close your eyes and picture the Southern Bayou you will probably envision the Bald Cypress.
While the natural range of Bald Cypress extends from Delaware to Florida and west to southern Illinois and Louisiana, it is hardy as far north as Canada, and grows quite well in Ohio. First introduced into England by John Tradescant the Younger in his a garden along the River Thames near London during the 1640s. Mark Catesby, the 18th-century naturalist described it as the loftiest North American tree next to the Tulip Poplar.
Native American tribes used the Bald Cypress mainly for its wood and fiber. Many of these cultures used the cypress to create dugout canoes. The Seminole were particularly famous for this use of the Bald Cypress.
The name Bald Cypress refers to its deciduous nature, in that it drops is needles every year. Prone to swamps and most associated with the bayous of Louisiana the Bald Cypress has adapted to its environment by sending up portions of their roots to stand well above the ground or standing water to essentially breathe, these root features are known as “knobby knees.”
The Bald Cypress is an important part of keeping a swamp’s ecosystem in check. The Bald Cypress aides in water purification to the swamp. The Bald Cypress has the ability to remove excess nitrates and phosphates, which cause algae blooms that cause oxygen levels to decrease from its environment, while simultaneously introducing oxygen into the water through its knobby knees.
In the south and along the Mississippi and Ohio River valley the wood was prized for its rot resistance and was used for barrels, railroad ties, and shingles. An 1831, advertisement in Steubenville’s Western Herald newspaper offers cypress shingles for sale at the Steubenville Landing’s Business Office.
The Bald Cypress is a great tree for the landscape to provide texture in the summer months and winter interest with its fluted trunks and if in right conditions, knobby knees. The positive affects the tree has for wildlife has both a food source and a place for shelter should not be underestimated. Bald cypress is a great nesting and food source for over 19 species of birds. It serves as a host plant for 17 different varieties of butterflies and moths, among which is the Imperial moth. .■