Bald cypress trees are some of the most beautiful and majestic trees in the
state. They are also one of the most recognizable symbols of aquatic ecosystems.
These are the trees you see in all the "swamp monster" movies.
They are often depicted with Spanish Moss dripping from their branches
into the dark, spooky water. But they aren't spooky at all.
The Bald cypress is a conifer or cone-bearing tree(like pines and firs). Some
conifers are "evergreens" and retain their leaves or needles all
year long. Bald cypress trees are deciduous, which means they lose their
leaves in the fall. The leaves of the cypress turn dark green to bronze
or rich pumpkin brown in autumn and give it a feathery, fine-textured
appearance. (learn why leaves turn colors) The bald cypress is native to swamps and rivers in east and central Texas.
The famous cypress "knees" are growths from the roots
that stick up above the ground and water. If you look closely at the
photo to the left, you can see several "knees" that appear
to be triangles coming up from the water. No one knows for certain
what the knees do for the tree, but some scientists think the knees
help the trees breathe. Bald cypress is extremely long-lived and its
wood is very durable and valuable timber.
Some of the animals that live and nest among the Bald cypress are:
hawks, great blue herons, squirrels, opossums and raccoons. You can
imagine that snakes and turtles like to hang around them too!
Montage images courtesy of Virginia Tech Forest and Dendrology Educational Web Site