“One of the most picturesque trees of the American forest is the full-grown cypress. It is slow growing tree, and reaches its best development in tidewater swamplands. Trees well over a thousand years old, towering to heights of over a hundred feet, were common in virgin stands. The mature cypress develops a swelled butt of 8 to 10 feet in diameter and is surrounded by so-called knees, which are really offshoots of the root. It is believed they serve the double purpose of respiratory organs and anchorage.”
American Bald Cypress grows in a belt along the southeastern coastal plain, mainly along rivers and swampy areas. Much of the finest and largest cypress timber grew where the land was submerged most of the year. Horses and mules could not work under such conditions and machine equipment was impractical. An early solution to the problem of making these stands accessible was to build canals through the swamps, so that large pullboats could drag the cypress logs out where they could be made into rafts and towed to the mill.
Preliminary to logging the cypress forests of the 1800’s, the trees to be felled were marked and girdled a year, or several months an advance. Girdling was done by cutting a notch three inches deep around the circumference of the trunk and about three feet above the ground with an ax. Thus, the tree was killed and the wood was allowed to lose part of the moisture, so that when it was cut, the logs would float.
Today, all the millennium giants are felled and gone. Second growth cypress is almost like a different specie. Minus the saturation of cypressein oil that takes several hundred years to develop, second growth cannot stand up to the elements like the virgin growth tree you see here.
See the table being made by Michael Doerr for his brother the owner of Auteur Winery (photo at right).