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Heat & Wind: Will these bald cypresses survive?

17 years ago

In April and May, I planted dozens of trees, including 4 bald cypresses between 5.5 and 9 feet tall, and 2 dawn redwoods that are similar in size. We had no rain for weeks and hot drying winds out of the south. I watered frequently and heavily.

About 10 days ago, the needles on one bald cypress turned orange over night. Here are two photos of tree #1 (first victim):

{{gwi:756051}}

The needles on the other cypresses had a slight orange cast, but were mainly green. Between Friday night and Saturday night, we had 6.5-7 inches of rain. When I checked the bald cypresses today, the needles on all trees are orange although not as dark as tree #1. Photo of largest tree:

{{gwi:756053}}

What are the chances that these trees will survive?

Is this a survival mechanism that is similar to when tulip trees and oaks drop their leaves when stressed? If this is a survival mechanism, will the tree put out green needles or will the trees remain bare until next year?

When will I know that it's time to start over again?

Pam

Comments (37)

  • 17 years ago

    Death is not a survival mechanism. Brown leaves are dead leaves. Reserve buds may sprout new green leaves if the tree recovers, maybe later this year, possibly next year. But if the branchwood gets brittle, there's probably no hope.

  • 17 years ago

    Pam:

    This is strange. I can't believe that you had any hot dry winds that would have killed these trees. I am in northern, VA and we have not had any extreme summer weather yet. Yes, it has been dry in some places, including here, but you have been watering. And I never thought these trees would be bothered by that kind of weather anyway.

    So, can you think of anything? You have not used any chemicals around these trees, I trust. Fertilizers?

    What is your soil like?

    As you can see I have no good ideas and have never seen anything like it.

    BTW: My surgery went well (last Friday)--very little pain but a long recovery before I am back to full activity. I have now learned to type as fast as before even in my sling. Thanks for your good wishes.

    --Spruce

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  • 17 years ago

    Spruce:

    I'm so glad your surgery was successful - you had a long wait and must have worried about the outcome. One tip - the post-surgery period is often harder for active people - you want to get on with your life ASAP. There is a tendency to skip some of the PT, but it is essential to a full recovery. OK, off my soapbox.

    To answer your questions about conditions - no chemicals at all, just lots of water.

    We have had near constant winds of 10-15 mph out of the south, day after day, for weeks. Same as last year. As temps increased to the high 90s, then low 100s, the wind continued to blow. Everything except the natives that were born here (wax myrtles, salt shrub, American hollies and junipers) have been affected, especially the trees I planted this spring. Most leaves on the oaks and tulip trees are brown and wrinkled like burned paper. The ginkgos and red maples were looking shaky but are probably better now - we got 1.6 inches of rain on Friday night, 5.1 inches on Saturday night.

    The dawn redwoods have an orange cast but are putting out new growth so I am more hopeful about them.

    We live on the the tip of a peninsula, Stingray Point. Conditions on the shore are different from conditions 1/8 mile away. The only land between us and and Africa is (maybe) the tip of the Eastern Shore. When you walk back 300-400 feet, tall trees (mostly loblolly pines) moderate the wind. Ex: a recently planted deodar cedar is doing fine. So my plan was to plant tough trees nearer the water to create a similar protective windbreak.

    Another factor: About a month ago, I moved the bald cypresses from a very exposed area about 50 feet from the water to an area where the house gives them a little more protection from the wind. The timing was not good but the needles were beginning to turn orange so I decided I had to do something.

    I have to admit - when I look at these bald cypresses, I feel sick. I have not grown these trees before so don't know how they respond to stressful conditions. The needles turned orange so quickly. They are tough trees so maybe they will survive. I'll keep watering.

    Perhaps I should plant some loblollies, white pines and hollies, wait until they are established and offer protection, then plant bald cypresses and other trees. But that will take so much time.

    I'm really not sure what to do or not do at this point.

    Take care,
    Pam

  • 17 years ago

    Sorry, pinetree30. I did not phrase my question correctly.

    Despite this, I think you answered - that the tree may show signs of recovery later this year or next year. It's probably impossible to know at this point.

    One more question: I planted 4 bald cypress trees. In three trees, the needles turned orange. The 4th tree is about 2/3 orange, 1/3 green. See photo:

    {{gwi:756054}}

    Would you keep this tree where it is, about 15-20 feet from the others? Would you pot it up, put it in a protected area to help it recover (one hopes) and replant it later, probably in the fall? Any other recommendations for this bald cypress that has some green needles?

    Many thanks,
    Pam

  • 17 years ago

    Don't move it, that will make the situation even worse by disturbing what few roots it might have.

    Check the 'Should this tree be returned to the nursery' thread . . . I bet yours is suffering from exactly the same problem - 98% of the root system ripped off when it was hacked out of the ground. No amount of watering will save a tree with next to no roots.

    Resin

  • 17 years ago

    Resin: I'm not sure if inadequate roots are the problem. Maybe they are and I'm too inexperienced to realize this. Here's why.

    The roots on the largest tree were unlike any I've seen before (disclaimer: no prior bald cypress experience). When I removed the tree from the pot and hosed off the root system before planting, I was surprised by the large number of roots of all sizes. Many of the largest came from a large knob, approximately 4-5 inches in diameter, maybe two inches below surface of the soil.

    I assumed this knob (I don't know the correct name yet) was one of the keys to how this tree survives in such variable and difficult conditions - from clay and abuse (Spruce's story about the bald cypresses in DC) to living submerged in swamps.

    I don't recall if the smaller trees had knobs but they all had an above average number of roots that seemed healthy.

    Another observation that may or may not be relevant: I planted 3 rosemary plants last fall in an area near the bald cypresses (similar exposure). They flourished all winter and flowered in the spring. I went out to pick some rosemary this evening, most of the leaves have turned yellow and dry.

    Thanks for your brain and your help!
    Pam

  • 17 years ago

    Pam, why did you hose of the roots prior to planting?

  • 17 years ago

    Pam:

    OK, with your further explanation, it WAS the weather. We didn't have anything like that here, but a little way south and east where you were it was really tough. And they were not established. Established bald cypress would not be affected by that kind of weather.

    I would suggest that when you replace these trees next year--and yes, try again, they are realy worth it--try to get them in by April first or sooner. Mulch and water as needed, but I would be careful not to over-water. But if your soil is sandy, it will be difficult to over-water and easy to let them dry out too much.

    (Yes, for my shoulder--the surgery was the easy part. For special reasons (partially frozen joint) my PT afterwards will be the real challenge and the real test.)

    --Spruce

  • 17 years ago

    carrieb: I hosed off the roots because the tree had so many roots that were tangled and going round and round the pot. It was my understanding that it is important to correct these problems when planting, as best one can.

    "ItÂs important to realize that roots respond to pruning in much the same way as the crown: pruning induces new growth. Roots that are pruned at transplant time, especially those that are excessively long or misshapen, will respond by generating new, flexible roots that help them establish in the landscape. It is vital that these new transplants are kept well-watered during this time." (see reference below)

    I did not do any root pruning.

    It was also my understanding that if you plant a tree that has large quantities of the soilless mix around the root ball, this "will inhibit root development" and that the "porous texture of this planting media will often lose water more rapidly than the surrounding native soil, resulting in increased water stress to the new transplant."

    Hosing off the roots is the gentlest way I know to untangle them and remove most of the planting mix.

    Since I've been coming to this forum, I've learned that there are different opinions about how to do things. My strategy may be wrong, or it may be wrong for some trees, or it may be wrong at certain times of the year. I don't know.

    I haven't had any problems until now, and I don't know if watering the roots is the reason these bald cypresses are having a rough time.

    If it is, I will be happy to change my ways.

    This link was posted on another thread earlier today.

    Here is a link that might be useful: The Myth of Fragile Roots

  • 17 years ago

    Spruce:

    Wind is a constant factor. The direction changes but not the power and impact of the wind.

    We lived in a cottage 1/4 mile from here for more than 10 years. Conditions there were very different because there was a wide belt of trees that protected us. I grew leaf lettuce in February and March without protection! The downside was that those trees caused very hot days and nights in the summer -- and an abundance of mosquitoes.

    I won't give up on bald cypresses - I am entranced by the notion of a grove, with spires reaching into the sky.

    I do have a question about planting times. We are strongly advised to do most of our planting in the fall (not that we listen). The first frost generally occurs in late November to mid-December. I'm thinking of replanting the bald cypresses in late Sept or early October, after the end of hurricane season, when we still have at least two months of decent weather before us. Maybe I should do what people recommend here all the time - "contact your local extension office - they know local growing conditions and are a good resource."

    RE: your shoulder. From your posts here, I've learned a little about your ability to persevere when things are difficult. Anyone who chops acres of thistles is persistent and tolerates more than the average amount of discomfort (okay, pain).

    See if you can find someone who had the same presenting problems, the same surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon can give you names. A person who has been down the same road can be an excellent source of information, advice and encouragement. Similar to what we do here.

    Since the 60's are the new 40's, we need to get the docs to create a parts place where we can pick up spares as needed.

    Please take care and keep us posted,

    Pam

  • 17 years ago

    Thanks, Pam. You explained that very well.

  • 17 years ago

    Thanks, Carrie. This forum is a wonderful resource for learning about a multitude of things.

  • 17 years ago

    Pam.... I had the same problem about two weeks ago on the Mississippi coast. Early this spring I planted four bald cypresses and two were stressed by the recent dry weather. They are on the edge of my property and I neglected them while I concentrated on watering some late planted dogwoods. (The bald cypresses were planted nice and early this spring and I thought they were better established). I should have known better.

    Well, one was green only at the tips of each branch, and (thankfully) green at the tip of the central leader.... A little less green than your pic of your survivor.

    One was doing a little better, it had browned perhaps a third of it's leaves ... and the other two were fine.

    I comfident of a full recovery so long as I water them properly from now on. Once established, bald cypress can handle up-land neglect, but the first season or two, they need lots of water.

    Keep your survivor where it is and plan on watering it weekly NEXT summer too.

    Raining plenty here this week.

    And I have seen a "dead" bald cypress start new growth from the bottom third of it's trunk and go on to establish a new leader.

    Good luck with your physical therapy Spruce!

  • 17 years ago

    Terry - Thanks a million for your post. I've been so discouraged about the bald cypresses and hoping they will recover.

    Your post is especially timely today - I've been searching the Internet for info about heat and wind damage to bald cypresses - what to expect, how to prevent. I didn't find much on this topic. Instead, I found articles stating that bald cypresses are the best trees to handle strong winds in hurricane prone areas, including Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida.

    I'll keep watering. Maybe we'll see some new growth before the end of the season. I sure hope so, I miss those fine, feathery needles.
    Thanks again,
    Pam

  • 17 years ago

    Your trees leafed out because they feed off of reserves within the stem.
    Your trees dried up and died because these reserves were exhausted.
    Your trees did not take up moisture from the soil because they lost contact with the soil. They lost contact with the soil because you barerooted them.
    You barerooted the trees because you, like so many others fell victim to the infamous website from the Puyallup Extension Center.
    A 9' Bald Cypress might well retail for $50 or more. When you barerooted it Its value was reduced to no more than $5. Seedlings and liners of BC no doubt can be barerooted with little problem, but not a 9' plant, however this bit of wisdom is not offered on the website.
    BC is native on both the Eastern & Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. It is a tough and adaptable tree. Off of the top of my head, I know of 3 local wholesale growers, one in St Michael's (ES) one in Melfa (ES), and one in Toano (WS) who grow large quantities of BS and spec them on wetlands projects. Survival rates are high. If they were told that they need to bareroot their plants before planting they would shortly be ROTFL.
    Here is what is strangely lacking from the website: Ask to have the pot removed at the nursery. If the plant is potbound reject it, end of discussion.
    The trained eye can spot potbound trees easily. These trees are often held over from the previous year. They are "top heavy". They have roots coming out of the drain holes. They are often discounted and therefore have no warranty. DON'T BRING SUCH TREES HOME.
    If that wasn't bad enough, when you barerooted your BC's you in effect voided the warranty by your action.
    Why are you seeking advice from a website in Washington State? As the old saying goes "Garbage in, Garbage out".
    What could they possibly know about conditions on the Chesapeake Bay? Also, don't bother contacting the Puyallup Extension Office, you won't get a response.
    Did you consider Pinus rigida, the Pitch Pine? They are all over the place at Cape Henlopen. They can take all the heat/salt/wind exposure, they even thrive on it. Try smaller sizes and larger quantities and forget about barerooting them.
    Sam

  • 17 years ago

    Nine feet tall, root bound and on sale.... that describes the one of my four bald cypresses that is doing the worst. I couldn't resist this tree though. Perfect form and perfect price.

    The other three were only four feet tall and are doing much better. The recent rains have been good to all four. I just need to keep on top of the watering ... for the next two years.

    Pam... your tree that has some green... Is the tip of the central leader still green? If so, water religiously and it should make a full recovery.

    I have doubts about your all brown trees making it, but you may as well give them a few more months. And bald cypresses ARE great for hurricane survival.

  • 17 years ago

    Sam: I appreciate your analysis of the problem and your advice.

    A little background: Two months before Hurricane Isabel, we bought land on the WS of the Bay. After Isabel, 95%+ of the trees were down or leaning - hardwoods and pines. The post-hurricane cleanup took more than two years. We now have a large empty field.

    My goal is to replant this area, so I began by planting trees. Except for the 9' bald cypress, I planted small trees recommended for this area - tulip trees, shumard oaks, white oak, red maple, ginkgos, bald cypresses.

    Since I was ignorant about trees, I looked for places to learn. I've spent a great deal of time in these forums, reading current and old posts. The answers to questions have been helpful, but I still have a great deal to learn.

    I appreciate your explaining that I damaged or killed the bald cypresses by rinsing off the potting soil around the roots. I would never have done this if I thought it would damage the trees.

    You asked some questions. I'll attempt to answer. You asked, "Why are you seeking advice from a website in Washington State? As the old saying goes "Garbage in, Garbage out."

    I thought the information from Washington State was general information. I did not know it was suspect or invalid for trees in the Chesapeake Bay region. I have searched for information from many sources, including Va Tech. The only information I found about the treatment of roots during planting was the article the Washington State site.

    You asked, "Did you consider Pinus rigida, the Pitch Pine? They are all over the place at Cape Henlopen. They can take all the heat/salt/wind exposure, they even thrive on it. Try smaller sizes and larger quantities and forget about barerooting them."

    No, I didn't consider Pinus rigida. Do you recommend them as a substitute for bald cypresses or in addition to them? Or, do you recommend them where heat/salt/wind are a problem?

    I have a question for you. It is my understanding that it is preferable to use trees that grow locally when possible. Is this accurate? Thousands of loblolly pines grow in the forest next to the open field. Loblollies are growing in the sand on the beach, in places where storms bring a foot or more of new sand over their trunks once or twice a year. Despite these conditions, they seem to be thriving and grow at least 3'-4' a year. I doubt that they will live long lives under these conditions - the next big hurricane may knock them out. If they are planted in more favorable conditions, I thought they would thrive. For these reasons, I planned to transplant some young loblollies this fall. Would you argue against this?

    Sam, I appreciate the time you spent answering my questions. I will heed your advice about barerooting and will examine the roots before purchasing trees.

    Many thanks,
    Pam

  • 17 years ago

    Terry - Yes, 9 feet tall, beautiful, price was right - irresistable and a mistake that was compounded by my own mistakes.

    New growth is coming from the lower half of the trunks of the most damaged smaller trees. No change in the taller one. I'll continue to water heavily this year, see what happens.

    It's very hot again and that's not likely to change. I wish you good luck.
    Pam

  • 17 years ago

    Pam, I am also re-planting some hurricane devastated land and so hurricane resistance is foremost.

    The back quarter of my land is high and dry but sorta cut off from my home site by a wide and spooky (kinda neat) bottom land area. It is so difficult to get to the back quarter that I only visit it two or three times a year.

    Once I get a four wheel drive tractor, I am toying with the idea of creating a passable route across the bottom land to access the remote eight acres and plant a plantation of bald cypress in, say, a twelve foot grid pattern. (International Paper planted the pines on my property approximately six feet apart.)

    I figure eight acres of bald cypress would be worth a fortune fifty years from now and unlike pines, I wouldn't have to worry about a hurricane wiping out half of my crop.

    Thoughts are welcome.

    Terry

  • 17 years ago

    Terry:

    I have no knowledge of forestry practices or how the industry works. Do timber companies plant bald cypress plantations? If so, that would probably be a beautiful sight. I can imagine how sickening it was to find half your pines down. When there are so many downed trees, they are almost worthless.

    I know you'll do research before going forward on a project. As always, as you look closer, you discover obstacles.

    According to Wikipedia, several things may seriously damage Taxodium distichum including a fungus called Stereum taxodi that attacks the heartwood of the trees. The cypress flea beatle or baldcypress leafroller that destroy leaves, cones or the bark of tree.

    But one of the biggest problems are nutria - they "clip and unroot young cypress seedlings, sometimes killing a whole plantation in a short amount of time."

    Are nutria common in Mississippi? They are in Maryland and NC but I don't think they are officially "established" in Virginia. If they aren't a problem where you live, you are in luck.

    Pam

  • 17 years ago

    The six or eight acres I am thinking of are up high enough that nutria wouldn't be a problem. Even the adjacent bottom land isn't their habitat, so I am ok there.

    The fungus and insect pests have never been a big problem here so far, knock on wood. However, they do get this strange insect that sucks juice out of the twigs though. They can fly but prefer to quickly hide on the far side of branches. They don't seem to kill the trees but I'm sure they do some damage.

    I think the biggest problem for my little idea would be all the watering the first year or two for eight acres of seedlings.

  • 17 years ago

    I can't imagine watering 8 acres of seedlings on your own. Seems like that would be a full time job.

    Do you know of anyone who has a bald cypress plantation who can advise you?

    BTW: My bald cypresses that appeared to be dead or dying are putting out new growth. The new growth is progressing from the bottom of the trunk up, so I don't know if this will continue all the way up the tree to the leader. Regardless, I am heartened by this progress.

  • 17 years ago

    For the fun of it, why don't you grow Montezuma cypress which is evergreen version of bald cypress? I found a source on ebay that sell montezuma cypress seeds. Strangely, they are from India where they conducted research studies on Montezuma cypress which originated from Mexico (and small area in the far south Texas bordering Mexico). They grow a lot faster than bald cypress too.

  • 10 months ago

    did the tree grow?

  • 10 months ago
    last modified: 10 months ago

    bil,

    Don't expect an answer from a decade and a half year old post where the contributors have since moved on.

  • 10 months ago
    last modified: 10 months ago

    Thanks for the update, Pam. Yes, baldcypresses are impressive in the various areas they can prosper -- saw a large, beautiful one in a Niagara Falls parking lot in Ontario, Canada! Very nice ones in Fort Worth, TX, where it is often very hot and dry in summer. I have 13 seed-grown ones along my border stream -- all survived a transplant from where they were grown (but they all had thick, carrot-orange tap roots to cut).

  • 10 months ago

    bengz6westmd - When I was planning a hurricane-resistant forest around 2009-2010, I remember a "beng" from Maryland - he was one of my forestry enablers.

    Also Spruce, ken, resin, and several others.

    If that person is you, I hope all is well. Are you still active since the forum moved to Houzz?

  • 10 months ago

    Yes, that's me. Sometimes my interest wans a bit (like in the middle of winter), but usually there are interesting posts. I believe davidrt28 is also near the Bay, the far north end.

  • 10 months ago
    last modified: 10 months ago

    Yep, opposite ends of the Bay are subtly or not so subtly different climates. VA Beach: Trachys, Butias, Oleanders, Agave americanas, first place that Camellias are very commonly seen in gardens along eastern seaboard. Here: elepidote rhododendrons in fun sun...larches, European horsechestnuts and beeches in some old gardens, and Kalmias as a roadside weed.


    Pam, good to see you still around!

  • 10 months ago

    Pam, if you get the chance you should visit Trap Pond Park in DE. Naturally occuring Bald Cypress there and they are enchanting. See my old thread HERE

  • 10 months ago
    last modified: 10 months ago

    Some of the baldcypresses along my border stream in Jan 2023 transplanted in 2007. Most have some knees -- there's hardly any "soil" there, just rounded stream-stones and washed gravel. They hold the flood-plain there very firmly (then all the erosion occurs on the opposite side).




  • 10 months ago

    perfect place to plant them!

  • 10 months ago

    Agree! Based on stories by Spruce, I planted a grove of bald cypresses along a large pond, Most have impressive roots. The cypresses in the old photo are about 30' tall and loaded with turquoise blue cones.

  • 10 months ago

    Here's a pic of the last one I showed in leaf right now. They all color beautifully and reliably no matter what autumn frosts/freezes occur. Sorry about the lighting -- pic taken into the sun.



  • 10 months ago
    last modified: 10 months ago

    I stumbled across this thread and read with interest. I have an @ 8 year in ground Peve Minaret Bald Cypress planted in wet clay soil here in PNW, south end of WA. We chose this tree because we fell in love with the soft ferny needles & the interesting bark. It has developed knees quite a distance from the trunk. Because I prune it to maintain size, it has a pretty interesting branch structure all winter. I was hesitant to prune but from research on the conifer society site I learned this tree is very amenable to pruning. The conifer garden in the Oregon Garden Resort in Silvedale, OR has a couple of Peve Minarets which are pruned and they’re gorgeous speciman trees. These are older pics from 2016 & 2020 - You can see from the 4 year size difference why I needed to prune. I believed the plant tag info of a 10’ mature height. Our moderate temps & wet winters make many plants far exceed their nursery tag growth descriptions!





  • 10 months ago

    Thanks, KW PNW, that baldcypress is a work of art.