December 27, 2022

Melissa had the day off yesterday since Christmas was on a Sunday this year.  She was wanting to get out and knew I had not been able to fish as much as I liked since we have gotten Zena (yeah, blame the dog).  We decided to go to one of our favorite reservoirs that is just over an hour away.  This has a flat beach where Zena could run as well as an outlet and tailrace that I like to fish.  Zena now loves to ride in the car and was excited as she hopped into the back seat.  We stopped for sandwiches (and a dog treat) and then took off on our journey.  When we arrived at the cove with the beach it was filled with ice, although the deeper parts of the lake were ice free.  We stepped out of the car and let Zena check this new environment.  The wind was biting and brought tears to Melissa’s eyes, which froze on her cheeks.  We decided to get out of the wind and drove to the swimming beach.  I noticed trees along the shore and in the water that I was unfamiliar with.  When I checked my Google app, it identified them as a grove of bald cypress.

When I looked online, I found the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), or swamp cypress, is a deciduous conifer in the family Cupressaceae.  The native range extends from southeastern New Jersey south to Florida and west to Central Texas and southeastern Oklahoma, and inland up the Mississippi River.  The tree is hardy and adapts to a wide range of soil types, whether wet, salty, dry, or swampy.  The cypress is a slow-growing and long-lived tree that usually grows to 35–120 feet (10–40 m) and has a trunk diameter of 3–6 feet (0.9–1.8 m).  The main trunk is often surrounded by cypress knees which jut through the soil from the roots around the tree.  The bark is grayish brown to reddish brown, thin, and fibrous with a stringy texture.  The cypress is noted for the russet-red fall color of its lacy needles.  The tree has some cultivated varieties and is often used in groupings in public spaces (like our reservoir) and can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Ancient bald cypress forests once dominated swamps in the Southeast, with some trees more than 1,700 years old.  The tallest known specimen, near Williamsburg, Virginia, is 145 feet (44.11 m) tall, and the stoutest in the Real County near Leakey, Texas, has a circumference of 475 inches (368.3 cm).  The National Champion Bald Cypress is recognized as the largest member of its species in the country and is listed as such on the National Register of Champion Trees by American Forest.  This Cypress is in the Cat Island Nation Wildlife Refuge, near St. Francisville, Louisiana, and it is 96 feet (29 m) tall, 56 feet (17 m) in circumference, and is estimated to be 1,500 years old.  The oldest known living specimen, found along the Black River in North Carolina, is at least 2,624 years old, rendering it the oldest living tree in eastern North America.  “Big Dan” is one of the oldest living specimens near High Springs, Florida at Camp Kulaqua, and was estimated to be 2,704 years old in 2020 and is more than 35 feet (10 m) in circumference.  “The Senator”, a bald cypress near Sanford, Florida, was 165 feet (50 m) tall before the hurricane of 1925, when it lost about 40 feet (12 m) in height.  It had a circumference of 47 feet (14 m) and a diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m) and was estimated to be 3,500 years old.  It was burned down by vandals in 2012.

THOUGHTS:  At the camp where we lived, we had a bald cypress in our back yard.  I had never seen one as they are not native to any of the places I lived or traveled.  The tree was clearly a conifer, and I was surprised that first winter when it dropped its leaves.  We had struggled with dry conditions during the summer and bitter cold as we began the winter, and I assumed the tree had died.  I was pleasantly surprised when the foliage returned the following spring.  The resilience of nature always surprises me.  Sadly, the ignorance of human vandals does not.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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