In 1963, the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) was designated as Louisiana’s official state tree. The bald cypress’s deciduous character, unlike most conifers gives, it a “bald” appearance. This type of tree is rather majestic and can be spotted in the swamps of Louisiana. It has a swollen, ridged trunk at the base; widespread branches; reddish-brown bark; and roots that often cause what we know as cypress knees to appear around the tree. Although the bald cypress is widely adaptable, it prefers to grow in wet, swampy soils. Riverbanks, floodplains, and wet depressions are specific areas in which the bald cypress thrives.
Bald cypresses provide habitat benefits to terrestrial and aquatic wildlife. The Louisiana forestry industry is also dependent on these cypress trees to contribute to a productive annual harvest with large monetary returns on the lumber and cypress mulch produced. The Atchafalaya Basin makes up a large share of the coastal wetlands, and more the half of the acreage of the Atchafalaya basin is cypress wetland forest. The bald cypresses of the wetlands are important to Louisiana’s culture, animal habitats, and the economy. Maintaining healthy cypress wetlands is critical to maintaining a natural storm buffer, filtering polluted water, providing irreplaceable habitats, and sustaining a thriving economy.
A trademark of the freshwater swamp landscapes in temperate climate zones, this deciduous conifer has made its mark as a signature resident of Louisiana, having been named the state tree. The widely adaptable bald cypress thrives best in wet, swampy soils of riverbanks and floodplains and is commonly thought of as a famous inhabitant of American swamplands, such as those that border the Mississippi River. Cypress trees will often have Spanish moss draped from branches and cypress knees protruding from the water or soil surface, as well as terrestrial and aquatic wildlife in close proximity who are dependent upon these trees. Swamp imagery usually includes bald cypress trees which are commonly correlated with Cajun culture. Cypress trees also contribute to a major portion of Louisiana’s forestry industry with an estimated annual harvest of 30 million board feet per year. The town of Patterson was once home to the largest cypress sawmill in the world and is now designated as the Cypress Capitol of Louisiana. Having both historical and economic importance, cypress trees that are at least two hundred years old and alive at the time of the Louisiana Purchase are being identified and landmarked as part of the Louisiana Purchase Cypress Legacy program to commemorate the state’s natural heritage. Cypress trees have been considered essential in the representation of swamp wetlands and hold exceptional importance to Louisiana.