Taxodium distichum/ Swamp or Bald Cypress Bonsai

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The Taxodium genus consists of only two species, Taxodium distichum/ The Swamp Cypress and Taxodium ascendens/ The Pond Cypress. Both a suitable for bonsai cultivation though it is the Swamp Cypress that is more commonly seen.

The Swamp Cypress is an upright, conical, monoecious, deciduous or semi-evergreen coniferous tree found in swampy forest or by river margins from SE USA to Guatemala. In its native habitat it can reach heights of 20-40 metres. Though often found growing in wet, swampy soils, the Swamp Cypress also grows well in relatively dry soils. In wet soil conditions, Swamp Cypress develop aerial roots known as 'knees' or pneumatophores at water level.

The shoots are of two types; deciduous (without buds), which fall in the Autumn and persistent (with buds), from which only the leaves fall. The narrowly lance-shaped, pale green leaves to 2cm long are arranged alternatively, radially or in two ranks. Male cones occur in groups; female cones are scattered throughout the tree. The trunk tends to be perfectly straight and develops a pale-brown, shallowly fissured bark texture with age.

In the UK, Swamp Cypresses come into leaf relatively late in the season, but are slow to shed their leaves in the Autumn. They retain their dried, brown leaves well into winter. The rust-brown Fall colours can be spectacular.

BONSAI CULTIVATION NOTES

POSITION Full sun. Fully hardy to -10°C.

WATERING Swamp Cypress should be kept moist at all times as they are thirsty trees. Although Swamp Cypress are able to adapt to wet, swampy soils it is not necessary or beneficial to stand them permanently in water.

FEEDING Swamp Cypress are very vigorous growers and require regular feeding every one or two weeks with a balanced feed.

REPOTTING Repotting should be carried out annually in Spring as new buds extend. Use a soil that is able to retain water but is still fast draining.

PRUNING Pinch out new shoots throughout the growing season to keep in shape. Hard pruning can be carried out in late Winter; this commonly results in prolific budding from the trunk.

WIRING Care should be taken when wiring, as these trees are fast growing and wires will damage the bark if not removed quickly enough. If possible use guy wires to pull down the branches.

PROPAGATION Cuttings at most times of the year and air layering in late Spring.

PESTS AND DISEASES Trouble free

STYLING Formal and informal upright forms, slanting and literati, twin-trunk and group forms in all sizes.