Water Level Influences

Poor regeneration of baldcypress forests is associated with the submergence of land and seeds, failure to retain seed trees when stands are harvested, and fire. The species, however, is rather resistant to fire injury due to the insulating capacity of its bark. Consequently, even when swamps dry out and fires occur, damage to trees of this species may not be serious. When water drains from some sloughs, the extensive vertical secondary root system, like large drooping tentacles circling the periphery of the buttressed bases of trees, can be observed.

Flood waters that overtop seedlings during their first year for more than three weeks, except in winter, kill them. While it is detrimental for seedlings to be submerged after trees are in leaf, death does not necessarily result. Sometimes stems releaf in late summer after being inundated during the growing season. Warm water and deep deposits of silt and clay sediments, along with oxygen deficiency, cause poor survival of submerged seedlings because transpiration, involved in mineral translocation, does not readily take place.

Baldcypress trees are intolerant of long periods of shade from overtopping canopies. Such stands succeed to hardwood species. Broadleaf trees also take over baldcypress sites following storms or heavy cutting. New stands of sweetgum, Nuttall oak, willow oak, red maple, and water tupelo promptly invade. Where a pine or oak seed source is present, these trees take over openings and, if drainage is adequate, replace baldcypress.

Baldcypress trees produce large seeds with small wings about every third year; as the seeds are sticky, not many eaten by birds and rodents. Ripened by October or November, seeds are rarely scattered by wind and never by animals. Water alone provides the means of transportation. Seeds often wash from the site of initial deposition or sink to the bottom of a pond. Germination, in the spring, is usually poor except in seedbeds of sphagnum moss and soft wet muck. Moisture in such a seedbed softens the seed coat, preparing the seed for germination. In spite of frequent good seed crops, obtained with four to eight seed-producing trees per acre, soil moisture conditions often prevent successful regeneration more than once every three decades.

Stunted baldcypress trees occur in South Florida. The condition has been attributed to rock formations near the surface of the ground, to nutrient deficiency, to water that stands on the surface of the ground for long periods, to lengthy droughts, and to high soil-surface temperatures. Inheritance is also likely involved in the slow-growth characteristic.

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