May 2017 Plant Profile: Taxodium distichum var. imbricatum

Commonly known as pond cypress this plant is just coming “back to life” at this time of year. It is one of the few deciduous conifers and here in May it is starting to “leaf out.”  The needle-like foliage is a feathery bright green during spring and summer.  In the autumn the foliage turns orange-brown before it drops.  This leads some people to believe the tree is dying.  The bark varies from gray-brown to red-brown and the cones are green, round and crinkly looking, a little like a brain.

bald cypress cone

Pond cypress has a columnar shape with a straight trunk and the branches are typically horizontal.  It is a slow grower and a low maintenance tree.  It is resistant to deer and air pollution.  It prefers moist, acidic, sandy soils but can tolerate anything from shallow standing water to ordinary garden soil with average moisture.

young taxodium leaves

At the UW Botanic Gardens you can see a lovely specimen, accession # 40-90*B, at the Center for Urban Horticulture.  It is located in the bed to the south just as you enter the northwest driveway entrance (CUH-ENT-4 on the CUH Planting Regions map).

Genus:   Taxodium
Species:  distichum var. imbricatum
Native to:  Southeast United States
Zones:  5-9
Height:  30’- 70’
Spread:  15’-20’
Sun:   Full sun
Water:  medium to wet soil

taxodium distichum fall color
Taxodium distichum in fall color growing at the Washington Park Arboretum