Bald cypress is a long-lived, pyramidal conifer (cone-bearing tree) which grows 100-120 feet tall. Old trees develop a wide, spreading base that narrows up the trunk with diameters as thick as 3-6'. It is one of the longest living trees in the world and its rings hold years of climate data. Although it looks like a needled evergreen (same family as redwoods) in summer, it is deciduous ("bald" as the common name suggests). It is native to southern swamps, bayous and rivers, primarily being found in coastal areas from Maryland to Texas and in the lower Mississippi River valley to as far north as the southeast corner of Missouri. In the deep South, it is a familiar sight growing directly in swampy water, often in large stands, with its branches heavily draped with Spanish moss. In cultivation, however, it grows very well in drier, upland soils.
The bald cypress is easily grown in average, medium to wet, moisture-retentive but reasonably well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, acidic, sandy soils, but tolerates a wide range of soil conditions ranging from somewhat dry soils to wet soils in standing water. This species has been known to tolerate flooded conditions for extended periods of time. The bald cypress is a low maintenance tree with easy fall cleanup. It has a large taproot and is slightly salt tolerant.
The roots grow knobby, conical "knees" that rise up from the ground. The heavy, straight-grained, rot-resistant wood has been used for a variety of purposes including barrels, railroad ties, and shingles. The sapwood is cream-colored while the heartwood is brown.