Cypress trees primarily grow north of the equator in a variety of soil and climate conditions. These trees make great additions to gardens and landscapes, although some species can reach heights of 150 feet or more, thus requiring careful planning before planting. Some of the cypress trees found in the southern United States live to be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.
Varieties of Cypress Trees
Dozens of types of cypress trees exist in the world, but all fall into one of two categories: deciduous or evergreen. One of the best known cypress trees, the bald cypress, is deciduous, meaning the tree loses its needle-like leaves once a year. Other trees, such as the popular Leyland cypress or the Italian cypress, are evergreen trees and do not lose their leaves each year.
The bald cypress trees that grow in the southern United States may be found near the edges of rivers, lakes and wetlands where they form large swamps. Leyland cypress grows in just about any type of soil in sun or shade, making it suitable for almost any landscape or garden in the United States except for desert areas. A good type of cypress for deserts and warmer climates is the Arizona cypress tree thanks to its drought-resistant characteristics. Italian cypress grow in moderate climate conditions such as those find in France or Italy.
Birds and small wildlife use cypress trees for cover, while a variety of songbirds use the trees branches for nests. In the cypress groves of the South, birders are still searching for the ivory-billed woodpecker, a likely extinct woodpecker that relies on cypress for habitat. Wild turkeys and wading birds also rely on bald cypress as an important food source.
Cypress trees make great bonsai specimens, especially bald cypress trees. When it comes to the full-grown bald cypress trees, their straight, tall soft wood makes them a great choice for lumber, railroad ties and fence posts. The wide, round trunks at the bottom of the bald cypress tree also makes them great for clocks and other furniture.
Large groves of mature cypress trees in the southern United States attract loggers and mill operators who want to harvest the wood. But scientists worry that mass logging will destroy this ecosystem. Cypress swamps prevent floods and clean the water while providing habitat to birds and animals, so controversy remains about the effects of cutting down these trees.