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What Are the Characteristics of a Cypress Tree?

lone cypress tree in pond image by mrslevite from

The cypress is a unique and beautiful tree, not only in appearance but also in its usefulness as a building material. It even serves an important ecological function as a way of preventing floods in marshlands. Its wood is popular for building because it is weather resistant in its natural state, needing no chemical treatment to protect it from the environment, and it also takes nails well without splitting.


The cypress tree is quite large, typically over 100 feet tall. The larger trees are capable of growing trunks that are around eight feet in diameter with a base that is generally even larger than the rest of the trunk. The crown of the tree is cone-shaped and at the base, particularly in trees that are planted in standing water, the roots will mound up in the shape of knees above the surface. The expression “the tree’s knees” applies here.


Cypress trees love water--the more the better, and they are quite thirsty trees, which is why they are often planted in flood zones to help control the water levels in those regions. These trees can also be planted in drier areas, but may need to be kept watered in order to remain healthy. Cypress trees love marsh lands and can grow in a variety of states from the border of Mexico all the way up to Oregon in the United States.

Leaves, Flowers and Cones

The leaves of the cypress tree are ¾-inch long, pointed at the tip and grow singly on the twigs. They are yellowish/green in color and fall from the tree in autumn. The flowers of the cypress tree are a shade of purple and grow in round clusters that can be up to five inches wide. These clusters perch at the tips of the twigs. When the flowers stop blooming and wilt, they are replaced by cones which contain the seeds of the tree. These cones go from green to brown as they ripen and are most likely to open after a wild fire. New trees can also sprout from the felled trunks of old ones. If the land owner does not want felled cypress trees to grow back, the entire trunk will have to be removed, but that is not foolproof, as the tree can return from the roots as well.


The wood of this tree has no sap and when cut doesn’t ooze. It’s color can range anywhere from light to dark honey tones. The cut lumber is lightweight and has its own built-in preservative, an oil called cypressine. The color of untreated cypress wood will change over time, growing lighter in color but not becoming weaker in the process. Cypress lumber lasts a long time, is very durable and easy to work with in building projects as it does not crack, split or warp when wet.

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