Bald & Beautiful

The Southern Cypress Manufacturer’s Assn. (SCMA) calls Southern cypress the best wood you might never have heard about. SCMA is promoting cypress on the national stage as part of a 13-episode series on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford. The TV show features The Kuppersmith Project— a renovation of an American Tudor style home in Mobile, AL. It began airing the end of January and runs through April.

According to SCMA, the home, originally built in 1926, suffered from neglect and was in need of repairs. To aid in the renovation of the exterior and preserve the home’s rich character, the SCMA donated cypress shakes.

“The cypress shakes we’re installing on the exterior of the house are a real eye-catcher,” said Danny Lipford. “Thanks to the weather-resistant characteristics of cypress wood, the siding on the Kuppersmith house will last a long, long time.”

SCMA also donated cypress for ceilings on the home’s front porch, back porch and breezeway, as well as for part of the home’s fence system. “Most homeowners are looking for local building products, and cypress is native to the region,” said Frank Vallot of the SCMA. “The longevity, beauty, and competitive price of cypress products are the icing on the cake.”

Denis Hermecz, a custom woodworker based near Fairhope, AL, agreed that Southern cypress is a wonderful wood, one he has been working with for a long time. “It might be new to people outside its growth area, but for me, Southern cypress is a wood I value. Right now I am using reclaimed cypress, or deadhead cypress that has been underwater for a number of years,” said Hermecz. “I love the array of colors in this wood. It is not for everybody, but it sure is wonderful to me.”

Hermecz said he likes working with Southern cypress because of its qualities and good looks, but also because it is a local wood. “It is a Southern wood and it just seems right to use it in a home on the water.”

He pays a premium price for wood reclaimed from the streams, rivers, bayous and swamps. He said he likes its old growth nature and that the colors are enhanced by their time in the water. “All the lumber reclaimed from water is a tremendous find from the past. The Southern cypress ‘sinkers’ have a very pretty color with dark oranges and a very tight grain. It is heavy and dense.”

Hermecz has used Southern cypress in a wide range of furniture, cabinetry, doors and millwork. To highlight the wood’s natural beauty, he said he prefers to use a clear coat instead of a stain.

Historically Important
Southern cypress is an historically important tree in the southern United States. It is commonly used for siding, decking and porch construction, where resistance to decay is required. The trees thrive in wet conditions and are often found in swamps, either alone in pure stands or growing alongside water tupelo, maples and oaks.

Cypress is a fast grower on deep, fine, sandy loams soils as well. Cone-shaped “knees” project from submerged roots. The name baldcypress most likely comes from the fact that the deciduous tree is the first to lose its leaves in the fall and the last to sprout buds. Sprouts can form from the cut trunk of bald cypress trees as old as 60 years. Southern cypress trees can live up to 600 years, with some trees on record existing for more than a 1,000 year lifespan.

Family Name: Taxodium distichum of the
Family Taxodiaceae
Common Names: Southern cypress, cypress,
bald cypress (baldcypress), swamp cypress,
black cypress, buck cypress, cow
cypress, red cypress, white cypress and yellow
Height/Weight: The average height for Southern
cypress is 100 to 120 feet, but trees can grow to
130 feet or taller. The average weight is 32 pounds
per cubic foot.
Properties: Southern Cypress is a soft, durable
wood and very resistant to decay.  
The wood is medium hard and strong with a close,
straight grain.
The color of cypress will vary according to the
region where it grows.
It should be kiln dried to the range of 10 to 12
percent moisture content. To dry the wettest pieces
without over drying the driest pieces, equalize
the equilibrium moisture content in the kiln to
11 percent.  

In addition to exteriors, cypress can be used for furniture.
Photo courtesy of Arcadian Cypress & Hardwoods 

Cypress is lightweight with a close grain. The color is often dependent on where it grows. It has a blonde sap wood with a orange heartwood and can have light streaks on a dark background. The heartwood varies in color from a light, yellow brown to a dark brown. Southern cypress is a member of the Family Taxodiaceae, the same as the redwoods. Related species include pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens) and Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum).

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