The name “cypress” includes many types of plants, everything from ground covers to towering trees. Among the trees, there are several varieties that are the equivalent of nature’s skyscrapers. These gentle giants can either be evergreens or deciduous. Some of the more common cypress trees that reach the sky are the Leyland cypress, bald cypress and the Nootka.
The Leyland typically grows in almost all the southern states. The Leyland cypress is often sold when 3 to 6 years old as Christmas trees because it has reached the ideal height of 6 to 9 feet. At maturity, the tree can reach more than 70 feet. It can be found in most of the southern states. The Leyland prefers well-drained soils and does best when it grows upland of any conditions that might put its roots in standing water.
The towering bald cypress which grows in the Ohio or Mississippi valley regions prefers to grow in standing water like swamps. In these conditions, it develops growths, commonly called “knees” that emerge from the water, several feet from the tree. The actual purpose of theses knees has not been ascertained by scientists but it is believed they help the tree take in oxygen when the roots are completely submerged under water. They can surpass 100 feet at maturity.
The Nootka is found in the western part of the United States. It reaches 40 to 90 feet in height. The interesting thing about the Nootka cypress is that can live well past 1,000 years in the right conditions.
Cypress trees are capable of rapid growth when they are in the proper environmental situations, much faster than typical trees which average 12 to 18 inches annually. Add to this their long life span and it is easy to see how they can reach their soaring heights. The Leyland for example, races to its height 2 to 3 feet each year. The bald cypress also shoots skyward at 18 to 24 inches each year. Within 10 to 15 years cypress trees have surpassed other trees of the same age.
In spite of being drought-resistant, severe drought can retard the growth of cypress trees as can planting them in sites that are unsuitable. Very few insects or diseases affect cypress trees, adding to their ability to survive for so long.
Souces: Ohio State University: Ohio Tree Bald Cypress
North Carolina University: Leyland Cypress
Missouri Botanical Garden: Nootka cypress