Shawnee Brave Baldcypress

Taxodium distichum ‘Mickelson’

Description & Overview

Shawnee Brave Baldcypress is a lofty, deciduous conifer with a slender, pyramidal habit. A stately specimen in any landscape, with nearly horizontal branches, fine-textured needles, and distinctive character. Selected by Earl Cully.

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: No – Variety of North American Native
Mature Height: 50 feet
Mature Spread: 15-20 feet
Growth Rate: Slow
Growth Form: Pyramidal, horizontal branches, buttressed
Light Requirements: Full Sun
Site Requirements: Adaptable to most soils except highly alkaline
Flower: Monoecious, purple male catkins, green female cones
Bloom Period: March-April
Foliage: Light Green
Fall Color: Red-Brown
Fruit Notes: Unique brown cones, clusters, mature October-December, good crops every 3-5 years

Suggested Uses:

Shawnee Brave Baldcypress is a unique specimen in northern landscapes. It’s beautiful fall color and growth habit make a statement as a specimen. Its pollution and salt tolerance, combined with its indifference to soil moisture make it an excellent choice for urban plantings.

Wildlife Value:

In its native southern range, Baldcypress seeds are enjoyed by squirrels. Shawnee Brave Baldcypress will provide similar food to wildlife in Wisconsin, although there are no species dependent on the tree in our state.

Maintenance Tips:

Take care when siting Shawnee Brave Baldcypress in alkaline soils. If the pH is too high, the leaves will become chlorotic and turn yellow. This can be amended with soil acidifier, but it is easier to choose another plant well-suited to heavy alkaline soil.

Shawnee Brave Baldcypress will develop a buttressed habit if left unpruned. If you desire to have the canopy clear to a certain height, it is recommended that you prune during the dormant season before the branches become buttressed.

We invite you to check out the Arborist For Hire lookup at the Wisconsin Arborist Association website to find an ISA Certified Arborist near you.

Left: Green female cones | Right: Purple male catkins


Shawnee Brave Baldcypress has no major insect or disease problems. This cultivar is more resistant to spider mites than the species. Gypsy Moth may defoliate portions of the tree when their population is high.

Leaf Lore:

Shawnee Brave Baldcypress is a selection of Baldcypress that has a dense, narrow canopy. Like the species, it tolerates pollution, salt, and poor drainage, making it an excellent street tree in spaces where soil alkalinity is not excessively high. The fall color is an attractive red-brown and the small foliage will not interfere with stormwater systems.

Baldcypress is native to the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Gulf Coast of the southeastern United States. It typically grows along riverbanks and swamps, its range extends north to southern Illinois. Near the ocean, its range is restricted by the salinity of water- the trees won’t be found in waters with greater than 1% salt. In its native habitat, Baldcypress will cease height growth when it reaches about 200 years of age. After that, it will grow wider, leading to trees of massive diameter.

When growing in wet or flooded locations, Baldcypress will form ‘knees’ off of their lateral roots, some up to 12 feet tall. Occasionally, ornamental plantings will also develop knees. The function of these knees has not yet been determined- some hypothesize that they are for gas exchange, while others posit that they help anchor the large root mass of the tree.

The heartwood of old-growth Baldcypress has been prized for fence posts, boats, and outdoor structures for its rot resistance. However, this decay-resistant heartwood is not present in younger trees, so take care when sourcing lumber.

Baldcypress is the closest living relative of the Dawn Redwood, another deciduous conifer found in China that has found use as a street tree.

Companion Plants:

Shawnee Brave Baldcypress functions well in spaces where dappled shade is desired. As we don’t yet know what causes the ‘knees’ to form, they should be underplanted with perennials rather than shrubs. Consider using a groundcover like Wild Ginger, or other spreading shade-tolerant plants like Zig Zag Goldenrod or Hot Lips Turtlehead.

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