Bald Cypress Facts and Info
Colonist discovered that cypress wood is resistant to rot but strong and easy to work. Logging began early in the 1700’s. Harvesting in the swamp was difficult until loggers learned to cut the bark around the base of the tree during late summer. This technique called girdling, killed the tree and allowed the wood to dry enough to float out during high water in the spring. In 1891the pull boat was invented. Using steam powered winches and cables, pull boats could pull in fallen trees from as far away as 5000 feet. Pull runs were cleared of trees and stumps and served as a pathway for repeated dragging of logs.
Parallel and wheel shaped markings are still visible from the air over many cut over Louisiana swamps. See pictures below.
In 1913 one billion board feet were cut. That is enough cypress to lay a foot-wide board walk from here to the moon. By 1914 the annual average increased to 3.5 billion feet. By 1921 the annual board foot cut grew to a staggering 4.2 billion. The last pull boat operation on blind river shutdown in 1961.
There are two reasons for old growth cypress to be referred to as “wood eternal”. Cypress heartwood is rich with “Cypressene oil”, which is believed to give it its great resistance to decay and protects it from insects. New Growth cypress does not contain the same level of oil found in the Old growth trees. “Pecky cypress”. is caused by a fungal attack that creates small cavities in the heart wood. . This fungus (stereum taxodii) creates a toxic compound which kills itself and protects the would from attack by other fungus.
In 1963 The Bald Cypress was named the Louisiana State tree. More Info
What is the Louisiana Purchase Cypress Legacy (LPCL)? The conventional wisdom is that virtually all the old growth cypress-tupelo has long been logged off. But in truth, while most of it is gone, a surprising number of large old cypress still can be found in all corners of our state, from Goat Island in the West Pearl River, to Lake Fausse Pointe and Bear Bayou in the Atchafalaya Basin, to Saline Bayou in central Louisiana, to Black Bayou swamp in Tangipahoa Parish, to Coochie Brake southwest of Winnfield. In fact the largest bald cypress in the United States is located in Louisiana on Cat Island (now part of the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge)-- it measures 53 feet in circumference at breast height. The very durability and sturdiness that made cypress the wood of choice for the building of New Orleans and towns all over Louisiana has helped the surviving old giants endure through the centuries.
With the celebration of the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial, we have an ideal opportunity to link the cultural and historic heritage of our state with its ecological inheritance. The intent of the Louisiana Purchase Cypress Legacy is to commemorate the state's natural heritage by identifying and landmarking trees (with an emphasis on the bald cypress and tupelo) that are at least 200 years old, alive at the time of the Louisiana Purchase.
This is a volunteer campaign to identify and landmark cypress trees (the Louisiana State tree) that are at least 200 years old--alive at the time of the Louisiana Purchase.
C. C. Lockwood is a nature and wildlife photographer specializing in Louisiana and the Gulf Region . His photographs are held in many personal, museum and corporate collections. Most recently, he was honored as a "Louisiana Legend" by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, "Conservation Communicator of the Year" by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation.