Friday, March 26, 2010

Bald Cypress

Bald Cypress, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

I had about a half hour to sketch while waiting at the doctor’s office, and sketched this Bald Cypress tree near the parking lot. It looks like young tree, 25 feet high, with a trunk about 9 to 10 inches in diameter. I used my sepia Micron Pigma pens to sketch on site, and added the watercolor washes later. My little three-color travel palette came into play again – the same Quinacridone Pink, Quinacridone Gold, and Prussian Blue kit I mentioned in a previous post.

In my research, I learned that the delicate drooping panicles are the male flowers, and I wondered if the yellowish-rust coloring was a dusting of pollen. The panicles (branched clusters of flowers) were 4 to 5 inches long, swaying in the breeze from arched branches. Anchored onto the sturdier branches were different types of airplants.

According to my meager knowledge they are Tillandsias: Wild Pine, Ball Moss, and Spanish Moss. These are also known as bromeliads, and are related to the cultivated pineapple. These however, are epiphytes. Epiphytes often grow on other plants or trees, but are not parasitic. They get nutrition from the air, rain, or organic debris that collects in their roots or leaves. Wild Pine sends up red bloom spikes this time of year – a spectacular sight in some trees, especially this cypress, which hasn’t yet replaced its needles.

A deciduous habit has earned this Cypress the “Bald” adjective. Some more ambitious trees nearby have started to sprout new foliage. There is nothing as soft looking and deliciously colored as the bright, fresh green of newly emerged cypress needles.

Bald Cypress normally grows in wet places, but is adaptable to drier conditions, too. A good place to see cypress trees and domes in their natural setting in our area is the Fakahatchee Strand or Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. In fact, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary has some of the largest and oldest stands of ancient cypress in the world, with some trees estimated at 500 years old!

You can click on the image above to view it larger on my Flickr photostream.