Frequently Asked Questions & General Information About Cypress
North American Cypress (Taxodium Distichum) grows in wet, swampy areas along the Eastern Coast from Delaware to Florida and west along the Gulf to the Mexican border in Texas and north up the Mississippi River Valley. This water-loving tree grows best in the swampy areas of Florida and the lower Mississippi River and can reach heights of up to 145 feet. Common names for cypress include: bald cypress, swamp cypress, southern cypress, red cypress, yellow cypress, white cypress, tidewater cypress, gulf cypress, black cypress, cow cypress.
Cypress trees are one of two American conifers (softwoods) that shed foliage in the fall like hardwoods. Although a softwood, it has traditionally been grouped and manufactured with hardwoods because it grows alongside hardwoods and is even graded by the rules of the National Hardwood Lumber Association.
Cypress has many exterior and interior uses. Cypress heartwood is extremely decay and insect resistant due to the naturally occurring preservative known as cypressine. It is an ideal choice for house construction, docks, beams, decks, flooring, paneling and siding. Cypress can also be milled to make doors, windows, rails, and even caskets. The ancient Egyptians used cypress to produce caskets for the pharaohs, and in the Middle Ages, craftsmen used it to carve enormous cathedral doors.
One Cypress grade that is particularly popular for interior paneling is Pecky Cypress. Although the exact cause is unknown, the Pecky appears like decay pockets in the tree’s heart wood. When finally cut for paneling, it yields an attractive three-dimensional look unlike any other wood. Even though Pecky Cypress is considered an independent grade, it is not as readily available as the Selects and Commons and therefore offers a special opportunity to present a truly unique rustic appearance. New Growth Pecky Cypress typically has a lighter color and a “lite to medium” degree of peckiness. Old Growth recovered Pecky is typically darker in color with a “medium to heavy” degree of peckiness.
New Growth Pecky Cypress
Old Growth Pecky Cypress
Cypress is as beautiful and distinctive on the inside as it is durable on the outside. Due to the slow growth, the rings are much closer than in most wood species. These close rings tend to make cypress more energy efficient, and decreased shrinkage makes it more durable and stable. In its natural state, the wood is a pale honey color that features light streaks on a darker background, and unsealed, weathers to an even gray on the surface. Even though it tested as a high paint retainer, most prefer the wood unpainted, as it will last for hundreds of years in this state with minimal checking or warping.
Supply of Cypress is tied directly to the weather. Because much of the cypress is found in swampy areas, it is hard to get to, sometimes requiring helicopters for removal. Statistics show that growth of cypress is greater than removal.