Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Live oak roots and house foundation in Austin
March 01, 2009 - Our builder left a live oak on our lot that is 7' from our foundation. The tree is now around 18' tall with a 20" circumference. Will this tree eventually cause damage to our foundation and is th...
view the full question and answer

Washingtonia palms need to be skirted?
August 31, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have five Washingtonia palms on my property that have never been skirted and look rather shabby. The interesting thing is that they have thrived (20-30 ft) here to begin with...
view the full question and answer

Plants under an oak tree from Corpus Christi TX
June 30, 2012 - My project: To grow white turk's cap under an old oak tree I first planted St. Augustine sod this spring because we had many oak suckers around the tree. We mixed new soil and compost, and laid the ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with native palms in Austin
April 10, 2011 - We had a large variety of California fan palms and blue sabal palms in our yard that were damaged during the last freeze. We found that several of them now have "spear pull," which means we could p...
view the full question and answer

Conditions for growing Prunus mexicana
March 23, 2007 - Will a native Wild Plum do well in the Cat Spring area west of Houston. The soil is quite sandy. I was told that the plum trees attract deer.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.