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Mr. Smarty Plants - Positioning a bald cypress among cattails in Silver Spring MD

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Thursday - April 30, 2009

From: Silver Spring, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Positioning a bald cypress among cattails in Silver Spring MD
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a rain garden, half of which is fairly overrun with broad- and narrow-leaf cattails. We've learned to be aggressive in thinning these out 2 to 3 times during the growing season. We also have a potted 4 foot Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) ready to drop into the ground. If we put the cypress in the wettest (and sunniest) part of the rain garden, it would be right in the middle of those cattails. Is it likely that the cattails would choke the cypress out, or could the cypress hold its own given that the cypress roots deeper into the ground than the cattails?

ANSWER:

If we had to make a choice between the two, it would be Taxodium distichum (bald cypress), hands down. It is a great tree, interesting year-round, even when it drops its needles, adaptable to wet or semi-dry conditions. The bald cypress can take sun or part shade, with the "knees" appearing in areas of poor drainage, which is okay with the tree. Typha domingensis (southern cattail) and Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail) are both native to Maryland. As you obviously already know, cattails can be very invasive and take over a wetland. So, why put them into direct competition? We would certainly recommend that you continue to control the cattails, and try to keep them from spreading any more. But the bald cypress does not have to go in the same place. It can do well in part shade, that is, 2 to 6 hours of sun a day, and does not have to have its feet in the water. Give it all the sun you can, and make sure it is well watered, especially the first year it is in the ground. Beyond that, we think it can hold its own very well. But watch those cattails!


Taxodium distichum

Taxodium distichum

Typha domingensis

Typha latifolia

 

 

 

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