A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Taxodium distichum (Bald, or Swamp, Cypress)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.

Oaks, maples, hickories and other broadleaved trees are expected to put on a colorful display in the autumn but, perhaps surprisingly, there are some deciduous conifers quite capable of adding their own tints to the spectacle.

The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a fine example and we have a trio of them on the lawn in front of Glyndor Gallery, shown on the right in this first shot.

the-treeTheir fall finery is peaking this week as their needle-like foliage turns from its summer green to a fiery coppery-orange. After a few days, this turns to a dignified bronzy-brown.


Eventually, after a sharp frost or some strong winds, the needles will drop, leaving the branches bare for the winter (hence “bald” cypress). It is native to the river banks and wetlands of the southeastern US and this accounts for its other common name, the swamp cypress.

Another deciduous conifer, the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), is close by and it, too, will be turning color very soon. The two are in the same botanical family, Cupressaceae, and are unusual because its other members, such as the cypresses, junipers and the redwoods of California, are all evergreen.

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