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Tree at North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC. The tree is near the time of shedding its foliage [C.J. Earle, 2004.10].


Bark on the above tree, approx. 15 cm dbh [C.J. Earle, 2004.10].


Foliage on the above tree, showing the linear cladodes and imbricate foliage for which the variety is named [C.J. Earle, 2004.10].


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Conservation status

Taxodium distichum var. imbricatum

(Nuttall) Croom 1837

Common names

Pondcypress (Watson 1993).

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Cupressus disticha Linnaeus var. imbricaria Nuttall 1818; Taxodium ascendens Brongniart. The name Taxodium distichum (Linnaeus) Richard var. nutans (Aiton) Sweet has been misapplied to this taxon; the type of this name belongs to var. distichum (F. D. Watson 1985) (Watson 1993). In popular use the variety is often named "imbricarium" rather than "imbricatum," and is sometimes called Taxodium imbricarium though no species has been described by that name.


Trees to 30 m tall and 200 cm dbh. "Bark brown to light gray, typically somewhat thicker and more deeply furrowed than that of other varieties. Branchlets with leaves not in 2 ranks, mostly ascending vertically. Leaves ca. 3-10 mm, appressed and overlapping, mostly narrowly lanceolate, free portion not contracted or twisted basally. 2n= 22" (Watson 1993).

Distribution and Ecology

USA: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana at 0-100 m elevation in blackwater rivers, lake margins, swamps, Carolina Bay lakes, pocosins, and wet, poorly drained, pine flatwoods (Watson 1993). Hardy to Zone 7 (cold hardiness limit between -17.7°C and -12.2°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree

Diameter 230 cm, height 41 m, crown spread 24 m, located in Newton, GA (American forests 1996).

The specimen with greatest known stem volume was the "Senator" (also called the "Sovereign Cypress"), located in Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida. This tree had a dbh 344 cm, a height of 35.0 m, and an approximate stem volume of 119.4 m 3 (Van Pelt 1998), but it was set on fire by a local resident and burned on January 15-16, 2012 (Huffington Post 2012). This is another in a long list of cases where an extraordinarily large, tall, old, or otherwise significant tree has been destroyed because of its celebrity.


I have found no reliable data. The "Senator" mentioned above was popularly described as 3,500 years old but there was no data to support this speculative age, which has been variously described as the determination of "experts" in the 1930s or determined by "increment borer" which is not logical given that the tree was hollow. Since it experienced nearly ideal growing conditions, it is quite possible that it was much younger.




The "dwarf cypress grove" in Florida's "Tate's Hell State Forest" is ecologically interesting; due to high water table and very poor soils, the pondcypress here are only 15 feet tall but up to several hundred years old. A trailhead and boardwalk make for easy access. The trailhead is located at 29.835818°N,84.793065°W.


A study of regeneration after fire (Cool and Ewel 1992) has found that "[a]lthough basal sprout reproduction by cypress was common in the burned swamps, no seedlings were found. This suggests that other factors, such as hydroperiod, are important in regeneration of cypress swamps."


Cool, S. and K.C. Ewel. 1992. Regeneration in burned cypress swamps. Florida Science 55(1):62-65.

Huffington Post. 2012.03.04. The Senator: Sara Barnes Charged With Setting Fire That Destroyed 3,500-Year-Old Florida Cypress Tree., accessed 2012.12.01.

See also

Prasad and Iverson (1999).

Scheper, Jack. 2001-2012. The Senator - Florida's Big Tree., accessed 2012.12.01.

Last Modified 2017-11-04