Swamp Cypress Taxodium distichum

Description & features

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Product description

Taxodium distichum

Swamp Cypress, most famously associated with the mangrove swamps of the Everglades, is one of the few deciduous conifers found growing in Britain. In autumn, its fine, feathery needles are shed just after they produce a stunning display of seasonal red foliage.

Taxodium distichum was introduced to Britain in 1640 by the famous plant hunter John Tradescant.

Its popularity as an ornamental tree was soon established and it was much in demand for planting by lakes, streams and rivers, and indeed anywhere with damp soils or access to water.

Whilst it can survive perfectly well without water nearby, it certainly thrives where it is wetter and warmer. Where the roots of the swamp cypress are submerged or in waterlogged ground, the tree will grow roots above ground known as 'knees' or pneumatophores, which can grow up to 3m but are usually much smaller.

It is thought that these knobbly roots act as snorkels by carrying supplies of air to the underground roots which may be starved of oxygen. They may also be acting as additional stabilisation for this large tree. In its native habitat Taxodium distichum can reach a height of 45m (140ft), but in Britain it rarely grows to more than 30m (100ft).

 

Features

Mature height
Very Large - 20 metres+
Spread
15-20 metres
Shape / habit
Pyramidal
Growth rate
Fast
Soil type
All soil types
Sun levels
Full sun
Partial shade
Difficulty / hard to grow
Easy
Evergreen / Deciduous
Deciduous
Season of interest
Autumn
Spring
Summer
Autumn colour
Orange
Red
Leaf
Green
Foliage
Cut leaf
Peeling bark?
Yes
Moisture levels
Wet/Water logged sites
Other
Good for Windy sites
Good at altitude
Uses
Parkland Tree
City/Urban Sites
Country/Farmland

Features

Mature height
Very Large - 20 metres+
Spread
15-20 metres
Shape / habit
Pyramidal
Growth rate
Fast
Soil type
All soil types
Sun levels
Full sun
Partial shade
Difficulty / hard to grow
Easy
Evergreen / Deciduous
Deciduous
Season of interest
Autumn
Spring
Summer
Autumn colour
Orange
Red
Leaf
Green
Foliage
Cut leaf
Peeling bark?
Yes
Moisture levels
Wet/Water logged sites
Other
Good for Windy sites
Good at altitude
Uses
Parkland Tree
City/Urban Sites
Country/Farmland

Aftercare

For the continued healthy growth of your trees, shrubs or hedging it is vital that you follow the advice below.

Watering

The main reason that plants die within 12 months of having been planted is lack of water.  It is essential throughout the spring and summer, to give a heavy enough watering to enable the water to penetrate right down to the deepest root level of the tree.  In hot dry spells give the equivalent of 2 bucketfuls every three days.

Weed Control

One of the most common causes of lack of water is competition from grass.  When trees are first establishing, the grass roots would be at the same level as the tree roots and are far more efficient at taking up water and thus choke the tree.  It is vital for 3 years after planting that your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one  metre wide completely free of grass.  The way to eliminate grass in order of effectiveness is:

  1. Spray off the grass with a glyphosate based weed killer such as Roundup.  Apply each year for the first 3 years.  It is best applied when the tree is dormant as it is absorbed through green leaves and kills the plant off at the roots.
  2. Firmly fit a mulch mat around the base of the tree by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this.  This can be done after the initial spraying with glyphosate and should avoid the need for further spraying.

Mowing or strimming is NOT an answer to the problem.  Each time you mow, the grass will grow back more vigorously and strimming invariably leads to lacerated trunks.

Staking

If trees are not correctly secured they will rock in the planting pit. Roots not firmly in contact with the soil are unable to take up moisture and nutrients, resulting in die back or death of the tree.  Check, particularly after windy weather, that stakes are still solidly in the ground keeping the base of the trunk firm.  The purpose of the stakes is to anchor the roots.   Flexing in the wind, higher up the trunk, is not necessarily a problem if the roots are firm.

Bellow is list of the correct system to use to secure your trees.

  • 40/60, 60/80, 80/100 whips - Unless rabbit/deer problem no need to stake.
  • 100/125, 125/150  1.2m Cane and Easi tie.
  • 150/175  1.2m square stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
  • 175/250, 6/8, 8/10 15L 1.65 Tree stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
  • All larger trees. 2 x 1.65 Tree stake and cross rail with 38mm cushion spacer and 1m of 38mm strapping.

Ties

Always use our recommended tree ties or strapping.  These are designed and manufactured with the correct amount of give to hold the tree firm without strangling it. They should be checked at the end of each growing season for adjustment as the trunk thickens.  Non proprietary materials such as baler twine will cut into the bark and should not be used.

Protection from Animal Damage

Rabbits, deer, sheep, cattle and horses can all potentially damage trees.  Ask us for advice on the most appropriate guards for your trees or hedge.  Squirrels are also a terrible pest when trees get to about 20ft tall but there is no protection available.


Comments

By Richard Sheridan on 25/09/2014

Is the foliage of the Swamp Cypress tree, harmful to the soil if left lying on flower beds during the autumn ?

By Simon on 06/10/2014

Hello Richard,

I have done quite a bit of looking into this one and can find no mention of them being harmful in any way. I hope this helps.

Kind regards,

Simon

By Vince Hawkins on 05/06/2015

I had a small pond ( two sections each about 10’dia. and approx. 3’ deep ) at the bottom of my garden. However it was almost impossible to maintain it due to it being surrounded by trees. Plus it was cleaned out of wildlife be herons.  I’m in the process of ripping out the butyl lining, this is leaving about 4” of slurry.
    Is this a suitable place for a Swamp Cypress ?

By Simon on 24/06/2015

Hello Vince,

Yes I would have thought a Swamp Cypress would do very well there. As you can see from the picture then do very well in and around water. You would probably be best starting with a small one as it will be hard to stake a bigger one in those circumstances.

By Veronica Milligan on 03/09/2015

i think I have a swamp Cyprus in my garden, planted by the previous owner. This year the foliage started to show and then stopped. Since then the foliage has turned brown from the top downwards. I really love this tree, do you think it has died, or if not how do I revive it?

By Simon on 07/09/2015

Dear Veronica,

I wonder whether your tree could have suffered some drought stress? They do like a moist, neutral to acid soil, so you could try watering it. Hopefully you will see new needles next spring.

By Carol Richardson on 03/10/2015

We recently visited a place called Pinetum in Cornwall and they had a beautiful taxodium line in deep russet orange with lots of bulbous pines…would you be able to identify which taxodium it was as we only had taxodium as the information.

Thank you for any help as I would like one for our garden.


Regards….

By Simon on 05/10/2015

Hello Carol,

There are only three species in the Taxodium genus and Taxodium distichum, the Swamp Cypress, is the one most commonly found planted in Britain, so it was probably this one that you saw. It turns in the Autumn, so that also fits your description.

By Nigel Allen on 04/01/2019

My garden is 25m x 5m and slopes down from the house 2m towards an ornamental pond where my six year old weeping silver birch died this year. The roots were probably killed by the frozen soil.
I need a replacement, but a swamp cypress appears to be too wide. Is there anything else that is columnar and can tolerate the mainly water logged ground? The soil is clay.

By Simon on 05/01/2019

Hello Nigel,

If it is very wet, i would have thought that may have been the problem with the birch, as they don’t like anything wet. If you wanted something a bit different that doesn’t mind it fairly wet i would have a look at the following trees:
https://www.chewvalleytrees.co.uk/products/detail/alnus-incana-aurea
https://www.chewvalleytrees.co.uk/products/detail/nyssa-sylvatica

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