Other Names: Bald cypress, Red cypress, Yellow cypress, Southern cypress
Cypress trees are conifers, but unlike most American softwoods, these are deciduous trees that shed foliage in the fall like hardwoods. Although cypress is a softwood, it grows alongside hardwoods and traditionally has been grouped and manufactured with hardwoods. The oils in cypress heartwood make it one of the most durable woods when exposed to moisture conditions causing decay.
The oldest structure in the United States is in St. Augustine, and It was built over 400 years ago from Cypress!
As a matter of fact, the original cypress shingles on George Washington's home are over 250 years old and doing fine.
Even cypress grave markers placed directly in the earth are still standing after hundreds of years.
And, the oldest living thing on this planet is a cypress tree at Rio del Tulle, Mexico. It is between 5,000 and 7,000 years old!
The biggest reason that Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) is so wonderfully resistant to insects and decay is its production of an oil called "cypresseine" which promotes these qualities.
Where it Grows
Most cypress trees are natives of the South. They are found primarily in wet, swampy areas along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Delaware to Florida, and west along the Gulf of Mexico to the border of Texas and Mexico. Cypress also thrives along the Mississippi Valley from the Louisiana delta to southern Indiana.
Cypress roots love water. Some trees growing on wet sites develop what are called cypress ?knees? or pneumatophores. The knee-like upright growths come from the roots, helping to support the tree and also to aerate the waterlogged root system. The wood from the knees is soft and light and can be used to make vases and novelty items.
Exterior: siding, shutters, shingles, trim, fence posts.
Interior: paneling, moulding, millwork, cabinetry, flooring, furniture.
Did You Know
During the Middle Ages, European craftsmen carved massive cathedral doors from cypress.
The sapwood is pale yellow white with the heartwood varying in color from light to dark or reddish brown.
Cypress machines well, planes easily and resists warping. Pre-boring at board edges will help prevent splitting. It nails and screws very well. It glues well, sands easily and readily accepts finishes.