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South Florida Aquatic Environments

Cypress Swamps



NATIVE FLORA
Cypress Swamp
courtesy South Florida Water Management District

Cypress Swamp


Cypress Swamps:

Native Flora

  • Pond cypress and bald cypress are the two species of cypress trees found in the Everglades
Two species of cypress reside within the Everglades, the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and the pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens). These trees were harvested during the early to mid 1900s. The durable wood from these cypress were used to make shingles, siding, cross ties, fenceposts, and picklebarrels. Second growth cypress is what primarily remains visible today.

Bald Cypress Tree
Bald Cypress Tree
courtesy U.S. Geological Survey
Bald Cypress Trees
Bald Cypress
courtesy U.S. Forest Service


The bald cypress grows to heights of 150 feet (45 m) or more, in or along flowing water such as rivers and springs. Characteristics include enlarged bases with buttresses, pale brown bark that sheds in strips, and light green, soft leaves growing in a single plane along both sides of the horizontal branches. The knees of this cypress tree are pointed and conical in shape.

Pond Cypress Trees
Pond Cypress Trees
courtesy U.S. Geological Survey
Pond Cypress Leaves
Leaves of the Pond Cypress
courtesy NOAA


The pond cypress is smaller than the bald cypress and thrives near ponds with slow-moving or still water. In the Everglades, this cypress grows in low-nutrient soils resulting in slow growth. These trees are often referred to as dwarf cypress or "hat-rack" cypress. In contrast with the bald cypress, the pond cypress knees are rounded and blunt at the tips. Also the leaves are spirally arranged rather than in a single plane as with the bald cypress.

Other trees found within cypress swamps include: Along with trees, other plants such as fetterbush (Leucothoe populufolia) and wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) as well as ferns, grasses, sedges, and vining plants are found in cypress swamps.

Bromeliad
courtesy U.S. Geological Survey
Bromeliad

An epiphyte is a plant that grows on other living plants for support but does not harm the host plant. These include bromeliads, orchids, air plants, and spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) which all thrive among the trunk and branches of cypress trees.

Slash Pine
courtesy NOAA
Pickerel Weed


Meadow Beauty
courtesy NOAA
Meadow Beauty

Shrubs and groundcover grow along the outer edges of cypress swamps, including:


Pickerel Weed
© Frithjof Holmboe, California Academy of Sciences
Pickerel Weed