It’s hard to believe that this distinctly southeastern tree was so unrecognizable to me here in Oklahoma. My neighbors across the street have a beautiful bald cypress in their yard, yet for months I had no clue what it was without it being accompanied by swampland and alligators. Not that I want alligators hovering around all the time. I’m quite happy these days being able to walk near a body of water and not have to be on the lookout for surfacing eyeballs and slide trails, thank you very much.
That photograph above is from my walk through the Jacksonville Arboretum in North Florida earlier this year. It looks right at home doesn’t it? The lush greenery, the ferns, the cypress roots digging right into the soggy ground. So you can understand why I was really surprised to learn that Oklahoma has a small but happy colony of native bald cypress trees. They live and thrive in the southeastern corner of the state, right at home with the swamps and alligators! (Yep, apparently Oklahoma has swamps and alligators.)
A local tree expert told me not too long ago that bald cypress trees find it difficult to grow in this area where so many ecoregions collide, although my neighbors’ tree says differently. Sure, I was disappointed at the reality of never having one in my yard but it’s not like I have to go far to see it.
Besides, I found some cypress stumps in the nearby city park, sans alligators.
And for any of you alligator enthusiasts out there, this is Virgil. Our office building on the campus of University of North Florida was right next to a retention pond which became home to a few different species of animals, naturally. Herons, turtles, softshell tortoises, catfish, and a couple of alligators. Virgil was “relocated” after he decided to run across the feet of our maintenance director who was trying to clean up the pond a bit. Virgil thought he was fishing. Virgil II showed up a few months later. We weren’t alligator-free for very long.