Written by: Angela Hursh, Content Team Leader, Main Library

Arbor Day is a special day dedicated to public tree-planting to make our communities a little greener. If you make it to any Library location this weekend, you might get a seedling to plant and celebrate the day.

The Ohio Valley Forest Fellowship and the Federated Garden Clubs of Cincinnati and Vicinity celebrate Arbor Day (April 26) by providing free tree seedlings to Library cardholders. The giveaway will happen this Saturday, March 23. Anyone who checks out an item at any of the Library’s 41 locations during normal business hours can receive a free seedling while supplies last.

This year, the free seedling will be a Bald Cypress Tree. Information and Reference Librarian Michelle Savoti put together this information guide to help you learn about the tree and how to take care of it.

Bald Cypress Tree (Taxodium distichum)

Zones: 4-10.

Growth Rate: Rapid-height increases of 13-24 inches per year.

Mature Spread: up to 25 feet.

Mature Height: about 60 feet tall.

Shape: Pyramidal to flat-topped.

Sunlight:  Full sun/part shade. It should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Type:  Prefers moist to wet soil.

Information: The Bald Cypress is a deciduous conifer related to the Dawn and Giant Redwoods. Its northernmost native range is the southern tips of Indiana and Illinois and Ohio. It can be planted as an ornamental tree. Its pyramidal to spire-like growth looks formal when it’s young and it becomes more columnar and open the older the tree lives. The leaves drop off in the autumn and its cones are round balls that release their seeds in the autumn and winter. They are long-lived and slow-growing trees. Older Bald Cypress trees are usually hollow and may reach 80 feet tall by 30 feet wide in open areas.

Leaf: Has miniature needlelike leaves that attach to twiglets which then attach to the main twig in a spiral fashion. In autumn, the leaves change from medium green to shades of orange, cinnamon, and tan before the needles and twiglets together fall from the twig.

Flower: Is a monoecious species (having male and female reproductive parts) has its dormant male catkins slim, cylindrical flower cluster) elongate in late winter or early spring and sway in March pollinating the nearby female flowers.

Bud/Twig: Has small attached buds and knobby leaf scars arranged in a spiral fashion along the thin twigs, which can be seen in the winter.

Bark: Is tan to reddish-brown and has a stringy appearance.

Planting Requirements: Prefers moist, acidic sandy loam soils with moderately good drainage. It adapts readily to moist and well-drained soils or even dry soils of rich, poor, or average composition. It thrives in full sun to partial sun.

Potential Planting Issues: Has several diseases and pest that can cause problems, but these don’t usually occur. Chlorosis (

Fun Facts: Cypress mulch is made from this tree.

The first scientific reference to the species was made in 1640. The origin of the common name, however, seems to have been lost to time. No one is sure why it is called “bald”.

This tree has inspired much poetry and prose over the centuries due to its melancholy and mysterious appearance. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow refers to its "towering and tenebrous boughs" that "waved like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals" in his 1847 poem, "Evangeline". Naturalist, John Muir in his 1916 book Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf refers to "the dark, mysterious cypress woods which cover everything" and states that "night is coming on and I am filled with indescribable loneliness."

It is the State tree of Louisiana.


Division of Forestry

Arbor Day Foundation

Encyclopedia Britannica Online

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