We have returned south to Louisiana for the winter, so this blog will have to change a bit. To start, there will be a few posts that compare trees in the south to counterparts that grow in Minnesota. The first tree to be featured is the state tree of Louisiana, the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), which is a deciduous conifer, like Minnesota’s Tamarack.
The native range of Bald Cypress stretches south along the Atlantic Coast from southern New Jersey to Florida and west along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas; it also extends north along the Mississippi river valley to southern Missouri. The picture on the left above is a Bald Cypress at the northern edge of its range, near New Madrid, MO, while the picture on the right is a specimen much further south, in Mandeville, LA.
Like the Tamarack, the Bald Cypress is one of the rare conifers that loses its leaves (needles) in the fall/winter. Around this time of year in Louisiana Bald Cypress needles change from green to yellow and orange before falling off. This does not happen uniformly, as shown by the trees in the two pictures above. They were both pictured on November 13 and are only about 50 steps apart. The tree shown on the left may be staying greener longer because of better access to water or less sun exposure.
Lumber from the Bald Cypress is valued for its toughness (another similarity to tamarack). Remarkably, in the Gulf of Mexico divers recently found a well-preserved forest of Bald Cypress 60′ below the sea, 15 miles off the coast of Alabama. It is thought that these ancient trees had been buried by sediment, but then uncovered by Hurricane Ivan.
The forest is a relic from 50-60,000 years ago, when sea-level was considerably lower than now — this was during a period of colder global climate, when much of Earth’s water was tied up by extensive glaciation. There is much more to this story, and it is well told in a web page provided by the Alabama news site “Al.com”.