Arboretum: Taxodium distichum
This finely-textured native tree is an oddball of sorts. It is one of the very few conifers that are not evergreen year round; each fall the tree’s soft needles turn bronze and then drop. In spring, new bright green shoots appear. The bald-cypress is also not a true cypress or even a yew, though its flat needle arrangement strongly resembles the latter.
Taxodium distichum is a tall narrow tree that thrives in poorly drained landscapes, though it also grows well in drier locations. In the southeastern United States it is usually found in swampy areas where the roots develop into rounded-topped “knees” or pneumatophores whose exact function is up for debate. These protuberances may assist with oxygen exchange or even help keep the tree upright in the extremely soggy soil.
At Haverford College several Taxodium distichums are growing in a cluster behind the Duck Pond and exhibit these above-ground roots. Trees growing on drier soil that do not feature these roots are on center campus in front of Barclay Dorm and in the Pinetum along the Nature Trail.