Bald cypress needles are framed by the limbs of a fallen tree while Pembroke Creek looms in the background.
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Chowan County, NC
The branches of a tree frame the wetlands of Pembroke Creek, Spanish moss, and the dying needles of a bald cypress.
Bald cypress reproduces sexually. They’re monoecious, an imposing word meaning a single tree produces both male and female flowers. Pictured is a female flower, called a conelet, probably because they look more like pinecones than flowers.
The conelets produce seeds that fall to the ground beneath the mother tree which, confusingly, is also the father tree. A few squirrels eat the seeds. Most animals don’t bother.
As often as not, the seeds fall into the water. They must stay submerged for one to three months to soften and swell the seed coats. They can’t germinate underwater but they can survive up to 30 months submerged. They sprout in wet soil when the water recedes.
Bald cypress reproduction is a dicey business. If the water rises above the leaves of young plants, they die. If the soil dries out, they die. Statistically, success in the lifetime of a mature tree is a single shoot growing to adulthood.
Probably more than you wanted to know about the reproductive lifecycle of bald cypress.
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