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Updated: 06/18/2014 12:13:58AM

Bald cypress, Florida’s grandest tree

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The baldcypress is a deciduous conifer that loses its needles in the fall. It prefers saturated soils and is characterized by "knees," or woody projections that stick up out of the water that may provide support for the tree.


When baldcypress grows in swampy conditions, the charactgeristic knees appear, jutting out of the water. This photo by Victoria Baker is one of the entries in this weekend's Art of the River exhibition, which is free and open to the public on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at South Florida State College.

By Karen Smoke

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Florida’s grandest tree is the bald cypress. Although it has long been of economic importance and is emblematic of the Everglades, it didn’t get the honor of being our state tree. The sabal palm is our state tree, but palms aren’t actually trees as they are more closely related to grass.

To confuse things more, the bald cypress isn’t actually a cypress, a family of mostly European evergreen conifers. It is a conifer, but unlike most conifers it is not evergreen. This long-lived deciduous wetland species is related to redwoods, and it is the largest growing tree east of the Rockies. Cypresses have been around for at least 5,000 years, and individual specimens may live to be 500 years old. Cypress is known for its towering stature, moss-draped limbs, and buttressed trunks. They may reach 100 to 150 ft.

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