Cypress

Cypress and water lilies

Of the two main water cypress species, pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens) is the predominant variety that grows in the acidic waters of Banks Lake.  Where the needles of the more familiar bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) feather out from the main leaf stem, in pond cypress they hug the stem tightly.  This gives the leaves a scaly appearance, and from a distance may resemble pine.


Boating through the moss-draped cypress is a mystical experience, especially when in a canoe or kayak.  The buttressed and fluted trunks often provide footing for vines or wayward shrubs, and one gets a sense of intimacy when gliding between these magnificent sentinels. White water lilies carpet the surface beneath the cypress around the lakeshore, and a number of birds nest in the wind-blown moss.  Incidentally, Spanish moss isn't a moss.  It's an epiphyte in the bromeliad family, getting nutrients from the air and water, not from the host tree.  Cypress knees were commonly thought to provide oxygen to the water-logged roots, but more likely they provide stability against water flow and wind.  Although they are conifers, cypress needles will turn rust in fall and then drop for the winter.