Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Bald cypresses on Onion Creek

with 25 comments

Bald cypresses on Onion Creek; click for greater detail.

Yesterday’s abstract, minimalist view of a bald cypress “rainbow” seems to call for a more traditional landscape photograph so that those of you who are unfamiliar with these large and majestic trees can see what they look like. This picture goes back to February of 2007 and to a stretch of Onion Creek in Hays County, southwest of Austin. Because the season was still winter the trees had their “bald” look and the creek, unlike so many in 2011, had water in it. As is clear here, bald cypresses thrive not just near water but most often partially in it.

European and American emigrants to Texas in the 1800s were attracted to bald cypresses for their timber, but because the settlers cut down so many trees, we who are here more than a century later rarely get to see a bald cypress as gigantic as it is the nature of this species to become when mature.

(Visit the USDA website for more information about Taxodium distichum, including a clickable map showing where the species grows.)

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2011 at 6:00 AM

25 Responses

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  1. Again – you share with us a unique and beautiful member of our world. The story of settlers cutting down all the trees is very much our story in the Pacific NW. I live near a park with a mature – second growth forest. The original forest was Cedar and Douglas Fir. They were truly giants living in our midst.

    Thanks for including the maps, I enjoy that feature.

    I have a question – do beavers (or other animals) live in the aquatic roots of these trees?


    August 12, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    • I appreciate your comments, Dawn, and for letting us know about your similar situation in the Pacific Northwest. I’m afraid that if things had been left up to people wanting only to make money, none of the giant sequoias would have survived either.

      I’m glad you find the USDA maps useful. I was surprised just minutes ago when I looked at the one for bald cypress and found that the tree grows in a couple of mountainous regions in New York, the state I grew up in (but not in those mountainous parts).

      As for beavers: I’ve never noticed evidence of them in the roots of bald cypresses, but I’m no expert; perhaps beavers are sometimes there and I’ve just not noticed them. I have seen beaver dams in swampy parts of eastern Texas, where the map says bald cypresses also grow, but I haven’t seen the two together.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2011 at 7:48 AM

      • P.S. Most viewers of this blog don’t live in Texas, but many of the species I depict are found in other parts (sometimes many parts) of the U.S. and in Canada. The maps can alert readers to plants that grow in their own areas and that they might keep an eye out for.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 12, 2011 at 8:08 AM

  2. I don’t recall these when I was in Texas, but Texas is huge. 🙂 I know we saw a lot of small cypress domes while in Florida. It was really interesting. At least to me. 🙂 My husband probably cared less.


    August 12, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    • Yes, Texas is huge, and the USDA map shows bald cypresses growing only in certain parts of the state. Even in counties where it grows, you would probably have to have been near a lake or stream to see one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2011 at 7:53 AM

  3. I like everything about this photo. What grand portraiture of the cypress trees right down to their reflections in the water.


    August 12, 2011 at 9:41 AM

  4. These trees have character and give off a certain vibe…interesting!

    Watching Seasons

    August 12, 2011 at 7:47 PM

  5. Would you believe I have several of these in my bonsai collection. Not as impressive as your picture of course. I am jealous beyond belief that I wasn’t able to see them for myself. Great shot which I’m glad you shared.


    August 12, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    • I’m glad I shared it too. The idea of a bonsai version of this enormous tree seems strange, but of course even the bald cypress starts out as a seedling.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2011 at 12:31 AM

  6. A beautiful photo. I was wondering how the trees are coping with your drought. Here in Australia we have started to come out of a very long drought and the Murray River (some would say the life blood of this country) was in a bit of a dry state. The river red gum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis, lines the Murray River for most of its length and depends on flood waters for propagation Luckily these trees live for hundreds of years however, have a habit of dropping branches to conserve water in times of drought. Probably not a good idea to camp, underneath 🙂
    Wish a had a photo to send you but I don’t

    Claire Takacs

    August 12, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    • Today I saw a pretty large bald cypress with all of its leaves turned brown, and with many of those already fallen on the ground. Thanks for telling about the river red gum, which I confess I’ve never heard of. When it comes to human safety, I’ll take the bald cypress, whose leaves are small and do no damage if they fall on you

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2011 at 12:37 AM

  7. Love the reflection!


    August 13, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    • I’m glad to see that after you reflected on the image you approve the reflections in it. Me too. Thanks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2011 at 9:08 AM

  8. Beautiful shot!


    August 13, 2011 at 10:50 PM

  9. Hi Steve. When I see photos of cypress, I always think of the legs and hooves/toes of animals whose upper bodies and heads must be lost in the blue sky. Great photo! Jane

    jane tims

    August 16, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    • Hi, Jane. Thanks, and welcome to you and your good imagination. Now I have to hope than none of those giant animals tread on me when I’m out taking pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2011 at 1:57 PM

  10. […] seen pictures in this column of bald cypresses and bulrushes, but not the two together. You’ve also never seen a picture in these pages of […]

  11. […] And if you’d like to see how majestic these water-loving trees can become, you’re welcome to glance back at another early post that shows several venerable bald cypresses at the edge of a creek. […]

  12. I just had to come over and take a look at the cypress. These are beautiful and I am so glad these escaped the tree harvesters’ saw. But one can settle for less and these are nice to see as well. I like the color of the trees in the fall. Here in my area several mall-like areas have used these for landscaping. The trees have grown but of course much slower since they are not near or growing in water. I wonder how old those trees are that are growing beside or in the creek in your 2011 pic.


    January 7, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    • I’ve noticed in my area, too, that people sometimes plant bald cypresses where there’s no obvious water near by, and some of those trees struggle and eventually die.

      I’m sorry I don’t have any idea how old the trees in this picture might be.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2013 at 2:06 PM

  13. […] boulder, but if you’d like to see some bald cypresses in their own right, you can check out a photograph from 2007. For a less clear view (that’s a novelty, right?) you can see a bald cypress in fog. And if […]

  14. […] Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, on November 9. Some brown sprigs from a bald cypress tree, Taxodium distichum, had fallen into the feathery grass and remained caught […]

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