Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive

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This is one of a series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens compiled by the Friends group. The tree tag number relates to the tree maintenance tags, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.
Family: Cupressaceae
Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.
Swamp cypress (Bald cypress in USA)

Black tag 127
54o 34.932N
5o 56.038W

There are not many conifers that are deciduous: that drop all their needles in winter. The swamp cypress, the larches (Larix species) and the dawn redwood are the most usually seen. Dawn redwood is superficially similar to swamp cypress. However, swamp cypress lacks the dramatic conical shape of dawn redwood and has a much more graceful spreading shape. The Botanic Gardens specimen is still young, but its shape is already distinct from dawn redwood. The leaves are also slightly different: the swamp cypress leaves tapering uniformly to a point, where the dawn redwood leaves remain parallel almost to the tip then narrow in sharply to a point. A distinctive and unique feature of swamp cypress is the development of aerial roots in older plants. These structures, pneumatophores, (sometimes called 'knees'), rise up from the ground around the trunk allowing the tree roots to absorb oxygen from the air and to trap sediment. This enables the tree to live in waterlogged soils and swamps. However, the swamp cypress is not restricted to swamps and grows well in dry soils.

Taxodium distichum in Belfast Botanic Gardens Foliage of Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum in Belfast Botanic Gardens

Foliage of Taxodium distichum

pneumatophores of Taxodium distichum leaf detail of Taxodium distichum

Pneumatophores of Taxodium distichum
in Toulouse Botanic Garden

Leaf detail of Taxodium distichum

leaf detail of Metasequoia

Leaf detail of Metasequoia for comparison

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2009. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.

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