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Starting bald cypress trees

 
John Elliott
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Rick Berry wrote:
John Elliott wrote:.... if you want to know how to collect cypress cones this winter and start seedlings next spring, I can walk you through that exercise. Before it was settled, Florida was a huge cypress swamp, and now there is hardly any old growth cypress swamp left.

I'd be interested, whether in a separate thread or in PM.


Fall is definitely in the air, and the bald cypress in my area are beginning to turn that autumn orange that they do. Once all the leaves drop, all that you will see on the bare branches are the seed cones that are about an inch in diameter. These will dry out and drop slowly all winter long, and they are a favorite food of turkeys. Or so I am told. Why anything would want to eat a resin-coated shard that is as hard and as sharp as a roofing nail is beyond me.

Anyway, the season is upon us when we can go out and collect these and prepare them to sprout a new generation of bald cypress trees. Although bald cypress trees can grow very tall, there are usually branches within reach that can provide lots of seeds. But use gloves. As I mentioned, the cones are full of resin and if you get it on your hands, it will take days to wash or wear off. I like to use a plastic grocery bag when I reach up and pick the cones, because then the bag becomes my glove.

Once you get them home, don't take them inside. They need some winter stratification, so if you leave them outside on your porch all winter, that will be just about enough cold hours to start them in March or April. The other thing that hanging on the tree all winter will do for them is to wash off some of the resin so that they can germinate. This can take a long time, bald cypress seeds can sit in a swamp for a couple of years or so and still remain viable as the resin slowly leaches away. But we want to germinate them now, dammit! There's a way to speed that along -- soak them in lye to break down the resin. Mix up a cup or so of wood ashes in a gallon of water, stir in your bald cypress cones and let it sit for 15 minutes to a half hour. While you are waiting, get your germination pots ready. You can plant 2 or 3 dozen seeds in a 10" diameter plastic pot and get lots of seedlings. They won't be too crowded for the first year, but the second year, you should remove them and plant them out individually. In the first year, you can expect them to get from 12 to 30 inches tall.

If you don't have bald cypress trees in your area, you may want to consider them. They are one of the few trees that love to have their "feet wet" and will grow in that spot where everything else rots out. They can be grown in very cold climates, like Michigan cold, but they may need to be pampered by heavy mulching the first couple of winters until they establish a good amount of root growth below the frost depth. And as far as a permaculture tree, these are permanent trees -- they can live over a thousand years, and unlike most conifers, the stump can resprout or 'coppice'.
 
Judith Browning
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My cypress tree (from your seeds!) is beginning to leaf out. i kept it in a back room over the winter and thought I would plant out in the spring. Our small pond is where I intended to put it and I wondered if it is just the roots that would be endangered by a freeze or also the leaves? We could get a few more freezes and many heavy frosts. i could just leave in the pot in the tub of water and set outside on the southern wide of our house for protection and plant in a month or so if you think that would work. thanks.

this pond has gone dry once in the past 15 years...will that kill the tree if it does it again?
 
John Elliott
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I think it will be OK. My trees started leafing out this week too. There isn't going to be another hard freeze that freezes the soil enough to kill the roots. And if they get a light frost on their new spring growth, it's not going to hurt.

The pond going dry is not going to kill it. Bald cypress, although they like to live in swamps, can be fairly drought tolerant. The only thing that kills seedlings is if they get floods over their heads. But then they have evolved to put on a lot of height in the first season just so that they can survive fairly heavy deluges.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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