This year I intend to bore you all silly with conifers! I aim to identify as many species as I can and have been spending the winter making observations, at a time when most other trees lose their leaves and evergreen conifers are obvious in the landscape. Having said that, I am starting with a conifer that also loses its leaves (apparently not called “needles” in this case).
I never knew deciduous conifers existed – apart from the larch (Larix decidua) – until last November, when I first observed this swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) close to the red footbridge in Cardiff’s Bute Park.
I couldn’t miss it, really, as it was such a vivid orange colour. For a moment there I thought it was dying.
I have watched it ever since, as it became bare and then grew new leaves in spring…
Then in May there was proper greenery…
As its name suggests, the swamp cypress is native to the swamp lands of the south-eastern United States and surrounding areas. It is also known as the bald cypress, southern cypress, white cypress, tidewater red cypress or Gulf cypress.
Like the oak I am following this year, the swamp cypress is monoecious, with male and female organs on the same tree. They are called strobili and somehow I managed to miss them. The male catkins are carried in purplish, drooping clusters during the winter. Pollen is shed in March and April and the small clusters of female conelets mature into cones from October to December.
So maybe they were the lumpy bits visible in the December picture?
For completeness here is an image of the cones from Wikipedia…
Another deciduous conifer I have watched in at least two locations in Cardiff is the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), but I will cover that in another post, hopefully without treading on the toes of Annie at Earthstar, who I know is following one of them this year!