Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Taxodium Distichum

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch


Taxodium distichum Leaf (05/05/2012, Kew, London)

Taxodium distichum Leaf (05/05/2012, Kew, London)

Position: Full sun to dappled shade

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Moist

Eventual Height: 40m

Eventual Spread: 15m

Hardiness: 6a – 10a

Family: Cupressaceae

Taxodium distichum is an upright, deciduous coniferous tree. Its mid green leaves are spirally arranged on the stem, but twisted at the base to lie in two horizontal ranks, up to 2cm long and 2mm broad. Its leaves appear light green in spring and turn dark orange before dropping in autumn. Its branches are more or less horizontal and its trunk may achieve a diameter of 3m. Its bark is red/ brown, vertically fissured with a stringy texture. Its flowers are monoecious and male flowers are borne in pendulous clusters which are up to 13cm long. Its fruit is a globe shaped cone, that appears green and matures to brown and are up to 3.5cm in diameter. Its roots form aerial roots known as pneumatophores or ‘knees’ at water level which enable this tree to be grown in very wet conditions.

Swamp Cypress (05/05/2012, Kew, London)

Taxodium distichum (05/05/2012, Kew, London)

Taxodium distichum, commonly known as the Baldcypress, Southern Cypress, White Cypress, Gulf Cypress or Swamp Cypress, is native to the south eastern United States. It was introduced into the UK in 1640 by the plant hunter John Tradescant.

The etymological root of the binomial name Taxodium is derived from the Latin Taxus ‘the Yew’ and the suffix oides meaning ‘like’. Distichum is derived from the Greek distichos meaning ‘two ranked’, in reference to the leaf arrangement.

The landscape architect may find Taxodium distichum useful as an attractive specimen tree. It is very useful in wet areas including pond edges, river edges and soils prone to flooding as it can tolerate waterlogged soils.

Ecologically, T. distichum cones are attractive to squirrels and other mammals.

Swamp Cypress Bark (05/05/2012, Kew, London)

Taxodium distichum Bark (05/05/2012, Kew, London)

The Royal Horticultural Society has given T. distichum their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

T. distichum prefers moist, humus rich soils. It tolerates most pH of soil, although it prefers acidic soils.

T. distichum requires little maintenance.

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