Taxodium is a genus of three species of highly flood-tolerant conifers in the cypress family (Cupressaceae). The genus name Taxodium comes from the Latin word Taxus, meaning “yew like,” and the Greek word eidos, meaning “resemblance,” for its similarity of leaf shape and being known for its heartwood. Baldcypress has been called the “wood eternal” because its heartwood Is resistant to decay.
The roots develop knobby, conical “knees” usually when the tree is grown near or in water for most of the time. These knobby root growths will protrude above the water or soil surface around the tree. Trunks are often buttressed and develop a large flare with a nice taper. The actual function of these knees is currently a subject of ongoing research. It is theorized that the knees help with aeration. Another hypothesis is they are storage organs for carbohydrates. After nearly 200 years of speculation and research, the true purpose remains an enigma.
Baldcypress is the closest relative of Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides.
Baldcypress is the Louisiana State Champion and is also home to the National Champion. It is located near St. Francisville, at Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge. It is 91 feet tall, with an 87-foot crown spread. Its trunk circumference is an astounding 626 inches!
The oldest living plant in Illinois is a millennia-old Baldcypress in the Cache River State Natural Area. The oldest Baldcypress in the United States is found along the Black River in North Carolina, estimated to be nearly 2,700 years old. It is the oldest tree east of the Mississippi River.