Montezuma Cypress: A Fascinating Specimen
The Montezuma Bald Cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) is a large, dioecious, semi-deciduous tree that typically reaches heights of 60 to 100 feet, and the trunk has been recorded to diameters of 50 feet or more. The top of the tree, called the pyramidal crown, has a diameter of 25 to 35 feet. The branches tend to droop as the tree matures, which causes the tree to appear wilted despite the greenness of its needles. T. mucronatum has a simple leaf structure, composed of needles (modified leaves) on woody branches. Each blade is pale green and commonly less than 2 inches long. The needle-like leaves are only deciduous in cooler areas, but remain on the tree elsewhere. T. mucronatum is a versatile plant; extremely drought-hardy but can also tolerate wet soils along streams which makes it an excellent desert plant. As new needles emerge, the tree will shed its old needles to make room for the new growth.
The tree produces inconspicuous, non-showy flowers in February. These give way to dry, hard, brown, oval fruit, which shows us that it is a dicot. The female cone is 0.6 to 1 inch long (1.5-2.5 cm). T. mucronatum has many common names including Ahuehuete, Pentamu, Penaton, CiprÃÂ©s, Sabino, and Yaga-quichi xina. Legend holds that the first of these plants was cultivated by a Quetzacoatl prophet named Pechocha from Nicaragua.
T. mucronatum is of the family Taxodiaceae, along with the Common Bald Cypress (T. distichum), Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), and the California Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Taxodiaceae consists of 10 genera, each of which is restricted to growth in the Southwest regions of North America and Central America. The leaves are spirally arranged and, with the exception of T. mucronatum, evergreen. The small, woody cones of family Taxodiaceae are small and...