Bald Cypress vs. Pond Cypress

As has been previously documented on this blog, I love cypress trees, and visiting the Okefenokee Swamp (see here and here) was a chance to see lots of them.

But my powers of observation must be growing, because while looking at these I noticed something I don’t think I would have a year ago.  The foliage on these cypress trees consisted of needles that stand stiffly upright…

…as opposed to that of the cypress trees here on Jekyll Island, which is feathery and drooping.

Seeing this proved once and for all that The Sibley Guide to Trees was worth purchasing, because I don’t think I would have noticed this if it hadn’t tickled a memory from looking up bald cypress trees in that book and noticing a brief entry on a second type of cypress with erect needles.  Turns out that the cypress trees of Okefenokee are actually pond cypress (or pondcypress, if you’re Sibley, who apparently eschews the space bar as a tool for lesser mortals).

Pond cypress may be a separate species, Taxodium ascendens, or it may just be a variety of bald cypress, T. distichum, depending on who you ask.  In any case, it differs in ecology as well as appearance.  Wikipedia (I know, I know, I know) describes it as occurring in “still blackwater rivers, ponds and swamps without silt-rich flood deposits,” which is a perfect description of the peaty Okefenokee.  Bald cypress, on the other hand, apparently prefers areas with rich silt deposits.

When I stopped to get a photo of the pond cypress needles, my mom immediately said, “For your blog, right?  And then you’ll send it to the tree festival people?”  Yes, Mom, this is indeed my Festival of the Trees submission for this month.  The theme this time around is supposed to be how trees inspire you, and in this case they seem to have inspired me to notice things I wouldn’t otherwise!