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Swamp Cypress Family (Taxodiaceae)

Characteristics

All of the trees in this family produce resin when their branches are damaged. They all have one main trunk with a fibrous bark, usually of a reddish color. As the tree grows older the basal branches are lost, leaving a clear trunk. The leaves are usually dark green, needle like structures.

All of the Taxodiaceae are wind pollinated, with male and female reproductive structures on the same individual plant, but physically separate in different canes. The male part is a cluster of catkin-like cones which release pollen, which is then blown by the wind. The female cones are larger and occur singly or in groups, a drop of fluid is exuded from them on which pollen grains land. Once the pollen has been captured in this manner, the fluid is taken back in, bringing the pollen and ovule into close association so that pollination may occur. Some species are capable of reproducing very early in their life (e.g., Taxodium) while others must first achieve a few centuries of age (e.g., Taiwania).

The seeds are produced in mature cones, and when they are released from their high branches they can disperse over long distances due to the presence of wing-like, aerodynamic structures. Some, such as Sequoiadendron, only release their seeds after a forest fire, allowing a relatively competition-free start in life. The adult is little affected by the fire due to a protective layer of fibrous bark that is burnt off. However, the living wood underneath is not damaged, except by exceptionally severe fires.

Recognizable fossils of some of these species have been found from the Cretaceous and Tertiary eras.

The modern Taxodiaceae are found in warm temperate regions of the world, mostly in eastern Asia, east and west North America, and with a single genus in Tasmania. These plants favor areas of high rainfall with rich soil, tending to occur in local groves. One species, the swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum), is tolerant of wet conditions and will grow in swampy places.


Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Stomium to SwiftsSwamp Cypress Family (Taxodiaceae) - Characteristics, Members Of The Taxodiaceae