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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.

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

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Saturday - January 02, 2010

From: Wylie, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning Bald Cypress in Wylie, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a 6 year old bald cypress that sustained damage to the upper portion of its trunk a couple of years ago. Since that time it has grown more outward than upward and developed a rounder shape. It now appears that two branches, each equally dominant, have forked the main truck and are starting to grow upward again. Should I prune one of these branches to allow the other take over or just let them grow out? The tree appears otherwise very healthy.

ANSWER:

From our Native Plant Database on Taxodium distichum (bald cypress), we want to quote some information on the shape of this beautiful tree.

"This lofty, deciduous conifer grows 50-75 ft. or taller. It is slender and conical in youth, becoming flat-topped in very old age. Large, needle-leaf, aquatic, deciduous tree often with cone-shaped knees projecting from submerged roots, with trunks enlarged at base and spreading into ridges or buttresses, and with a crown of widely spreading branches, flattened at top."

We really love the conical shape of this tree when it is young, but it sounds as though it is not a particular issue as far as the tree is concerned, because it will develop widely spreading branches as it ages. This article from the USDA Forest Service Baldcypress specifically mentions that the tree broadens out as it grows, and it can even be pruned into a hedge. Just from your description, it would not appear that it is going to do any damage to the tree to let it grow the way it wants to. It might cause the tree to look unbalanced if one of the trunks were pruned away, and pruning is always an invitation to insects and disease in a tree. This appears to us an excellent example of "leave it alone, it's doing fine."

 

From the Image Gallery


Bald cypress
Taxodium distichum

Bald cypress
Taxodium distichum

Bald cypress
Taxodium distichum

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