Last updated

Temporal range: Late Cretaceous–Present
Taxodium distichum NRCSMS01010.jpg
Bald cypress forest
in a central Mississippi lake
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae
Subfamily: Taxodioideae

Taxodium ascendens - Pond cypress
Taxodium distichum - Bald cypress
Taxodium mucronatum - Montezuma cypress
Taxodium dubium


Taxodium /tækˈsdiəm/ [1] is a genus of one to three species (depending on taxonomic opinion) of extremely flood-tolerant conifers in the cypress family, Cupressaceae. The generic name is derived from the Latin word taxus, meaning "yew", and the Greek word εἶδος (eidos), meaning "similar to." [2] Within the family, Taxodium is most closely related to Chinese swamp cypress (Glyptostrobus pensilis) and sugi (Cryptomeria japonica).

A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, as well as viruses, in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

In biology, a species ( ) is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined. While these definitions may seem adequate, when looked at more closely they represent problematic species concepts. For example, the boundaries between closely related species become unclear with hybridisation, in a species complex of hundreds of similar microspecies, and in a ring species. Also, among organisms that reproduce only asexually, the concept of a reproductive species breaks down, and each clone is potentially a microspecies.

Taxonomy (biology) The science of identifying, describing, defining and naming groups of biological organisms

In biology, taxonomy is the science of naming, defining (circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics. Organisms are grouped together into taxa and these groups are given a taxonomic rank; groups of a given rank can be aggregated to form a super-group of higher rank, thus creating a taxonomic hierarchy. The principal ranks in modern use are domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus is regarded as the founder of the current system of taxonomy, as he developed a system known as Linnaean taxonomy for categorizing organisms and binomial nomenclature for naming organisms.

Species of Taxodium occur in the southern part of the North American continent and are deciduous in the north and semi-evergreen to evergreen in the south. They are large trees, reaching 100–150 ft (30–46 m) tall and 2–3 m (6.6–9.8 ft) (exceptionally 11 m or 36 ft) trunk diameter. The needle-like leaves, 0.5–2 cm (0.20–0.79 in) long, are borne spirally on the shoots, twisted at the base so as to appear in two flat rows on either side of the shoot. The cones are globose, 2–3.5 cm (0.79–1.38 in) diameter, with 10-25 scales, each scale with 1-2 seeds; they are mature in 7–9 months after pollination, when they disintegrate to release the seeds. The male (pollen) cones are produced in pendulous racemes, and shed their pollen in early spring. Taxodium species grow pneumatophores, or cypress knees, when growing in or beside water; these are woody projections which rise above the water and are said to help carry oxygen to the root systems.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Deciduous trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally

In the fields of horticulture and botany, the term deciduous (/dɪˈsɪdʒuəs/) means "falling off at maturity" and "tending to fall off", in reference to trees and shrubs that seasonally shed leaves, usually in the autumn; to the shedding of petals, after flowering; and to the shedding of ripe fruit.

Evergreen plant that has leaves in all four seasons

In botany, an evergreen is a plant that has leaves throughout the year that are always green. This is true even if the plant retains its foliage only in warm climates, and contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season. There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs. Evergreens include:


The three extant taxa of Taxodium are treated here as distinct species, though some botanists treat them in just one or two species, with the others considered as varieties of the first described. The three are distinct in ecology, growing in different environments, but hybridise where they meet.

Ecology Scientific study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment

Ecology is the branch of biology which studies the interactions among organisms and their environment. Objects of study include interactions of organisms that include biotic and abiotic components of their environment. Topics of interest include the biodiversity, distribution, biomass, and populations of organisms, as well as cooperation and competition within and between species. Ecosystems are dynamically interacting systems of organisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living components of their environment. Ecosystem processes, such as primary production, pedogenesis, nutrient cycling, and niche construction, regulate the flux of energy and matter through an environment. These processes are sustained by organisms with specific life history traits. Biodiversity means the varieties of species, genes, and ecosystems, enhances certain ecosystem services.

Hybrid (biology) offspring of cross-species reproduction

In biology, a hybrid is the offspring resulting from combining the qualities of two organisms of different breeds, varieties, species or genera through sexual reproduction. Hybrids are not always intermediates between their parents, but can show hybrid vigour, sometimes growing larger or taller than either parent. The concept of a hybrid is interpreted differently in animal and plant breeding, where there is interest in the individual parentage. In genetics, attention is focused on the numbers of chromosomes. In taxonomy, a key question is how closely related the parent species are.

ImageNameCommon nameDistribution
Taxodium distichum3.jpg Taxodium ascendens Brongn. pond cypressOccurs within the range of bald cypress, but only on the southeastern coastal plain from North Carolina to Louisiana. It occurs in still blackwater rivers, ponds and swamps without silt-rich flood deposits.
Bald-Cypress (2883842076).png Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich. bald cypressNative to much of the southeastern United States, from Delaware to Texas, especially Louisiana and inland up the Mississippi River to southern Indiana. It occurs mainly along rivers with silt-rich flood deposits.
Taxodium mucronatum1.jpg Taxodium mucronatum Ten. Montezuma cypress, ahuehuete, sabinoOccurs from the Lower Rio Grande Valley south to the highlands of Guatemala, and differs from the other two species in being substantially evergreen. A specimen in Santa María del Tule, Oaxaca, the Árbol del Tule, is 43 m (141 ft) tall and has the greatest trunk thickness of all trees, 11.42 m (37.5 ft) in diameter. It is a riparian tree, occurring on the banks of streams and rivers, not in swamps like the bald and pond cypresses.

Formerly placed here

<i>Glyptostrobus pensilis</i> species of plant

Glyptostrobus pensilis, also known as Chinese swamp cypress, is the sole living species in the genus Glyptostrobus. It is native to subtropical southeastern China, from Fujian west to southeast Yunnan, and also very locally in northern Vietnam.

<i>Sequoia sempervirens</i> species of plant of the monotypic genus Sequoia in the cypress family (Cupressaceae)

Sequoia sempervirens is the sole living species of the genus Sequoia in the cypress family Cupressaceae. Common names include coast redwood, coastal redwood and California redwood. It is an evergreen, long-lived, monoecious tree living 1,200–1,800 years or more. This species includes the tallest living trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet (115.5 m) in height and up to 29.2 feet (8.9 m) in diameter at breast height (dbh). These trees are also among the oldest living things on Earth. Before commercial logging and clearing began by the 1850s, this massive tree occurred naturally in an estimated 2,100,000 acres (850,000 ha) along much of coastal California and the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States.


Cypress knees at low water, Wee Tee Lake, South Carolina Cypress knee 6016.JPG
Cypress knees at low water, Wee Tee Lake, South Carolina

The trees are especially prized for their wood, of which the heartwood is extremely rot- and termite-resistant. The heartwood contains a sesquiterpene called cypressene, [4] which acts as a natural preservative. It takes decades for cypressene to accumulate in the wood, so lumber taken from old-growth trees is more rot resistant than that from second-growth trees. [5] However, age also increases susceptibility to Pecky Rot fungus ( Stereum taxodii ), which attacks the heartwood and causes some damaged trees to become hollow and thus useless for timber. Bald Cypress wood was much used in former days in the southeastern United States for roof shingles. [6] The shredded bark of these trees is used as a mulch.

Wood Fibrous material from trees or other plants

Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the stems and roots of trees and other woody plants. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers that are strong in tension and embedded in a matrix of lignin that resists compression. Wood is sometimes defined as only the secondary xylem in the stems of trees, or it is defined more broadly to include the same type of tissue elsewhere such as in the roots of trees or shrubs. In a living tree it performs a support function, enabling woody plants to grow large or to stand up by themselves. It also conveys water and nutrients between the leaves, other growing tissues, and the roots. Wood may also refer to other plant materials with comparable properties, and to material engineered from wood, or wood chips or fiber.

Decomposition The process in which organic substances are broken down into simpler organic matter

Decomposition is the process by which organic substances are broken down into a more simple organic matter. The process is a part of the nutrient cycle and is essential for recycling the finite matter that occupies physical space in the biosphere. Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death. Animals, such as worms, also help decompose the organic materials. Organisms that do this are known as decomposers. Although no two organisms decompose in the same way, they all undergo the same sequential stages of decomposition. The science which studies decomposition is generally referred to as taphonomy from the Greek word taphos, meaning tomb.

Termite insect

Termites are eusocial insects that are classified at the taxonomic rank of infraorder Isoptera, or as epifamily Termitoidae within the cockroach order Blattodea. Termites were once classified in a separate order from cockroaches, but recent phylogenetic studies indicate that they evolved from close ancestors of cockroaches during the Jurassic or Triassic. However, the first termites possibly emerged during the Permian or even the Carboniferous. About 3,106 species are currently described, with a few hundred more left to be described. Although these insects are often called "white ants", they are not ants.


Fossil leaf of Taxodium dubium, 8 Mil. years old, Hambach lignite open pit mine, Germany Fossil-leaf Taxodium dubium Tertiary Germany.jpg
Fossil leaf of Taxodium dubium, 8 Mil. years old, Hambach lignite open pit mine, Germany

In earth's history Taxodium was much more widespread in the Northern Hemisphere than today. The oldest fossils were found in Late Cretaceous deposits from North America. The trees persisted in Europe until around 2.5 million years ago, during the Pliocene. [7]

The Late Cretaceous is the younger of two epochs into which the Cretaceous period is divided in the geologic timescale. Rock strata from this epoch form the Upper Cretaceous series. The Cretaceous is named after the white limestone known as chalk which occurs widely in northern France and is seen in the white cliffs of south-eastern England, and which dates from this time.

The Pliocene Epoch is the epoch in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.58 million years BP. It is the second and youngest epoch of the Neogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch. Prior to the 2009 revision of the geologic time scale, which placed the four most recent major glaciations entirely within the Pleistocene, the Pliocene also included the Gelasian stage, which lasted from 2.588 to 1.806 million years ago, and is now included in the Pleistocene.

See also

Related Research Articles

Pine genus of plants

A pine is any conifer in the genus Pinus of the family Pinaceae. Pinus is the sole genus in the subfamily Pinoideae. The Plant List compiled by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden accepts 126 species names of pines as current, together with 35 unresolved species and many more synonyms.

Pinophyta division of plants

The Pinophyta, also known as Coniferophyta or Coniferae, or commonly as conifers, are a division of vascular land plants containing a single extant class, Pinopsida. They are gymnosperms, cone-bearing seed plants. All extant conifers are perennial woody plants with secondary growth. The great majority are trees, though a few are shrubs. Examples include cedars, Douglas firs, cypresses, firs, junipers, kauri, larches, pines, hemlocks, redwoods, spruces, and yews. As of 1998, the division Pinophyta was estimated to contain eight families, 68 genera, and 629 living species.

Larch genus of plants

Larches are conifers in the genus Larix, of the family Pinaceae. Growing from 20 to 45 m tall, they are native to much of the cooler temperate northern hemisphere, on lowlands in the north and high on mountains further south. Larches are among the dominant plants in the boreal forests of Siberia and Canada. Although they are conifers, larches are deciduous trees that lose their needles in the autumn.

<i>Thuja</i> genus of plants

Thuja is a genus of coniferous trees in the Cupressaceae. There are five species in the genus, two native to North America and three native to eastern Asia. The genus is monophyletic and sister to Thujopsis. Members are commonly known as arborvitaes, thujas or cedars.

Cypress name applied to many plants of different genera

Cypress is a common name for various coniferous trees or shrubs of northern temperate regions that belong to the family Cupressaceae. The word cypress is derived from Old French cipres, which was imported from Latin cypressus, the latinisation of the Greek κυπάρισσος (kyparissos).

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary nature reserve in southwest Florida

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a National Audubon Society sanctuary located in southwest Florida, north of Naples, Florida and east of Bonita Springs, in the United States. The sanctuary was established to protect one of the largest remaining stands of bald cypress and pond cypress in North America from extensive logging that was ongoing throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

Cupressaceae family of plants

Cupressaceae is a conifer family, the cypress family, with worldwide distribution. The family includes 27–30 genera, which include the junipers and redwoods, with about 130–140 species in total. They are monoecious, subdioecious or (rarely) dioecious trees and shrubs up to 116 m (381 ft) tall. The bark of mature trees is commonly orange- to red- brown and of stringy texture, often flaking or peeling in vertical strips, but smooth, scaly or hard and square-cracked in some species.

<i>Tsuga</i> genus of plants

Tsuga is a genus of conifers in the subfamily Abietoideae. The common name hemlock is derived from a perceived similarity in the smell of its crushed foliage to that of the unrelated plant poison hemlock. Unlike the latter, Tsuga species are not poisonous.

<i>Chamaecyparis thyoides</i> species of plant

Chamaecyparis thyoides, a species of Cupressaceae, is native to the Atlantic coast of North America and is found from southern Maine to Georgia and along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Florida to Mississippi. It is one of two species of Chamaecyparis found in North America. C. thyoides resides on the East Coast and C. lawsoniana can be found on the West Coast. There are two geographically isolated subspecies, treated by some botanists as distinct species, by others at just varietal rank: Chamaecyparis thyoides thyoides and Chamaecyparis thyoides henryae (H.L.Li) E.Murray The species grows in forested wetlands where they tend to dominate the canopy. The trees are associated with a wide variety of other wetland species because of their wide north-south range. The remaining populations are now found mostly in remote locations that would be difficult to harvest, so its popularity as a source of lumber has decreased.

<i>Pinus canariensis</i> species of plant

Pinus canariensis, the Canary Island pine, is a species of gymnosperm in the conifer family Pinaceae. It is a large, evergreen tree native and endemic to the outer Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a subtropical pine and does not tolerate low temperatures or hard frost, surviving temperatures down to about −6 to −10 °C. Within its natural area, it grows under extremely variable rainfall regimes, from less than 300 mm (12 in) to several thousands, mostly due to differences in mist-capturing by the foliage. Under warm conditions, this is one of the most drought-tolerant pines, living even with less than 200 mm (7.9 in) of rainfall per year. It is the vegetable symbol of the island of La Palma.

<i>Pilgerodendron</i> species of plant

Pilgerodendron is a genus of conifer belonging to the cypress family Cupressaceae. It has only one species, Pilgerodendron uviferum, and is endemic to the Valdivian temperate rain forests and Magellanic subpolar forests of southern Chile and southwestern Argentina. It grows from 40 to 55°S in Tierra del Fuego, where it is the southernmost conifer in the world. It is a member of subfamily Callitroideae, a group of distinct southern hemisphere genera associated with the Antarctic flora.

<i>Taxodium ascendens</i> species of plant

Taxodium ascendens, also known as pond cypress, is a deciduous conifer of the genus Taxodium, native to North America. Many botanists treat it as a variety of bald cypress, Taxodium distichum rather than as a distinct species, but it differs in ecology, occurring mainly in still blackwater rivers, ponds and swamps without silt-rich flood deposits. It predominates in cypress dome habitats.

<i>Taxodium mucronatum</i> species of plant

Taxodium mucronatum, also known as Montezuma bald cypress, Montezuma cypress, sabino, or ahuehuete is a species of Taxodium that is native to Mexico. Ahuehuete is derived from the Nahuatl name for the tree, āhuēhuētl, which means "upright drum in water" or "old man of the water."

<i>Chamaecyparis obtusa</i> species of plant

Chamaecyparis obtusa is a species of cypress native to central Japan.

<i>Cupressus sempervirens</i> species of plant

Cupressus sempervirens, the Mediterranean cypress, is a species of cypress native to the eastern Mediterranean region, in northeast Libya, southern Albania, coastal Bulgaria, southern coastal Croatia, southern Montenegro, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, southern Greece, southern Turkey, Cyprus, northern Egypt, western Syria, Lebanon, Malta, Italy, Israel, western Jordan, and also a disjunct population in Iran.

<i>Taxodium distichum</i> species of plant

Taxodium distichum is a deciduous conifer in the family Cupressaceae. It is native to the southeastern United States. Hardy and tough, this tree adapts to a wide range of soil types, whether wet, dry, or swampy. It is noted for the russet-red fall color of its lacy needles.

Strand swamp Type of swamp in Florida forming a linear drainage channel on flatlands

A strand swamp or strand is a type of swamp in Florida that forms a linear drainage channel on flatlands. A forested wetland ecological habitat, strands occur on land areas with high water tables where the lack of slope prevents stream formation. Strands are more linear than the cypress dome swamps that form in more rounded depressions and are fairly similar to floodplain swamps that form further north along streams and rivers.

<i>Glyptostrobus europaeus</i> species of plant

Glyptostrobus europaeus is an extinct conifer species of the family Cupressaceae that is found as fossils throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The sole living species of Glyptostrobus was described from China in 1926. The name of the genus comes from the Greek "glypto" meaning grooved or carved, and "strobilus" meaning cone. The species name "europaeus" refers to the fact that it was first described from Europe.


  1. Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. Everett, Thomas H. (1982). The New York Botanical Garden Illustrated Encyclopedia of Horticulture. 10. Taylor & Francis. p. 3299. ISBN   978-0-8240-7240-7.
  3. "GRIN Species Records of Taxodium". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  4. Buchanan, M. A. (1965-10-07). "The Fatty Materials in Southern Cypress Wood" (PDF). Institute of Paper Chemistry: 3.
  5. Sternberg, Guy; James Wesley Wilson (2004). Native trees for North American landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Timber Press. p. 476. ISBN   978-0-88192-607-1.
  6. Toliver, L. P.; Wilhite, J. R. (1990). "Taxodium distichum". In Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H. (eds.). Conifers. Silvics of North America. Washington, D.C.: United States Forest Service (USFS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 1. Retrieved 2009-10-11 via Southern Research Station (
  7. Eckenwalder, James E. Conifers of the World. Timber Press. p. 591. ISBN   978-0-88192-974-4.