Rarely does a plant come along that presents a completely different look and feel to our landscapes. Cascade Falls Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum cv Cascade Falls) is such a plant. It is as, if not more pendulant than the Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica ) very familiar in more northern climates.
The Bald Cypress and Pond cypress are both native throughout Florida as well as most southern states where swampy conditions exist. Surprisingly, Bald Cypress ranges clear into southern Illinois. This is the tree growing in the swamps of the south, usually draped in Spanish moss.
Another characteristic of Bald Cypress is that it sends up cypress knees around the tree and above water level. I had always thought that this allowed the tree to get oxygen to the roots, but lately this has been questioned and now general opinion is that it is used to help support the tree in wet soggy unstable conditions. The knees are non-existent or rare in areas where the tree is above water level, a blessing to not have if the area the trees are located in are being mowed.
When planting the tree from a container, I was at first very surprised with the white fungus that was around the root ball. This is normal and the fungus forms a symbiotic relationship with the cypress, and probably acts as root hairs. I know the tree does not do well unless there is this association.
The normal Bald Cypress makes a beautiful large tree wherever it is planted. Although it defoliates in the winter it is one of our few plants that give us some rich rusty red fall color and it quickly re-leafs here in South Florida in February. The bright lime green color of the leaves in the spring refresh the landscape.
I remember when I lived in Oklahoma and discovered a huge bald cypress in one of our local parks, I quickly obtained some to sell at the nursery there as well as planted a few down by our pond. They are still at the pond thriving almost 50 years later.
Several different clones of Bald cypress have been selected recently and “Cascade Falls” is my favorite.
This tree was discovered in New Zealand, most likely as a witches’ broom. It was subsequently grafted and distributed throughout the world. I discovered it at a nursery near Portland, Oregon. It was eye popping and I had no doubt that it would thrive here in South Florida. I talked the nursery owner into a one gallon recently grafted plant, packed it in my suitcase and brought it back home. It is now seven or eight years old and not only thriving, but becoming more magnificent with each passing year. I suspect it will eventually reach 15 feet and almost that amount of spread which could be controlled. Also with staking, no doubt you could go much higher.
Last year, revisiting the nursery in Oregon, we were able to secure enough plants to fill a semi-truck and bring them back to our nursery here in Boynton. Being grafted, grown for 5 to 7 years, and shipped across the country, they are a bit pricey but oh so worth it. I remember when the truck arrived and we started to unload, the feeling that half of the Willamette valley was on our property. They were and are heavy. Nothing in South Florida gives this same look and so versatile in its demands. A picture tells it all.
We have donated a plant to Mounts and it will soon have a home near the new aquatic area in the gardens.
This plant will grow beautifully in dry areas and does not need swampy conditions to thrive. Normal procedures to establish a newly planted tree is all that it needs.
Mr. Stanley in Oregon says his specimen tree of Cascade Falls is a favorite of his grandkids. They love to play under the canopy which forms a huge tee-pee.
Running a close second is Bald Cypress Peve Minaret. This is a Dutch selection and is very different in character as compared to Cascade Falls. It has the typical lush, fern-life foliage as our native, but the leaves are much closer together and perhaps crested. I obtained this plant at the same time as I got the Cascade Falls, filling my suitcase with the two plants and shipping my clothes home from Portland. Although descriptions say that it is of compact upright habit growing 8 to 10 feet, I must disagree. My plant is well over 10 feet in 7 years and is narrowly upright. Unfortunately we have been able to graft only a few plants which are now in 3 gallon cans, 10 inch pots.
Another selection is a dwarf variety called “Seacrest”. Although I find it limited to use in the landscape, it makes a wonderful bonsai or large pot plant. It may just be me as it is very popular in the Pacific Northwest. We were able to secure a few plants with the Cascade Falls shipment.
If you want a conversation piece plant a “Cascade Falls”. Not only are they gorgeous along a pond, but on higher ground. We have a few trees available at Tropical World Nursery in Boynton. I am not sure if they are available anywhere else in Florida. They are in heavy soil and are too heavy to ship.
. . They are for free local pick up only as weight and size prohibitive to ship