Bald Cypress and Water Tupelo Swamps in the Low country or Why Henry Ford bought Spanish Moss for Model T’s. NTTI, Nov. 2002 Prepared by: Charlie Campbell. Bald Cypress and Water Tupelo Swamps.
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NTTI, Nov. 2002
Prepared by: Charlie Campbell
Bald Cypress and Water Tupelo are the predominant trees in swamps. Swamps are deep water areas that are flooded most of the time. They differ from marshes in that swamps have trees and marshes do not.
Range of swamps in the United States occur along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Delaware to Florida and up the Mississippi River Valley northward to southern Illinois.
They are classified as bottomland, hardwood forests and can be found along river channels, ox-bow lakes, floodplains and low lying areas.
Link to the website for SC water systems: http://map8.epa.gov/scripts/.esrimap?name=NHDMapper&Cmd=ZoomInByState&CmdOld=ZoomInByScalar&th=35&zf=2&lc=000010001&qc=-2&Nq=&Vw=&Nc=0&Pi=0&Pw=0&fipsCode=45&click.x=5&click.y=4&im=on&L=-90.1424560328664&B=25.7054681776295&R=-80.027717612787&T=33.2915219926891&am=&re=0&acl=&AL=0
(Press escape to access website at bottom of screen.)
Additional information on wetlands can be found at the following websites:
For more information about swamps, see the following links:
Fluted base of
Tupelo Tree (non-fluted base)
Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum):predominant tree in Lowcountry Swamps
Male cones hang downward
Gets its name because
it loses its leaves in
the winter and looks “bald”.
Double click on the speaker to hear the Prothonotary Warbler’s song.
Water Tupelo leaf
Tupelo is deciduous and polygamo-dioecious (male and female trees).
Timber is produced out of swamps. Cypress is a major product.
Cypress wood is used for a variety of uses including siding, shingles and other housing products, and the knees are used for decorative products.
Pecky is prized as a decorative wood. Pecking is simply the result of a natural fungus (Polyporus amarus) entering older living trees through branch loss or fires that destroy the bark.
Cypress sawmills generally produce about 100-120 million board feet of cypress annually.
Bald cypress is used principally for building construction, especially where resistance to decay was required. It was also used for caskets, sashes, doors, blinds, tanks, vats, ship and boat building, and crates. are used for flooring, fu
Fur, crawfish and shrimp are some of the commercial products that are harvested out of swamps.
Nutria eat the tender, young shoots of cypress trees. Over the long term this could prevent the cypress trees from regenerating.
Nutria is a species of rodent similar to the muskrat. The species is endemic to South America and was imported in the US by E. A. McIlhenny (Tabasco sauce maker). He thought it would be a source of revenue for fur trappers. However, the pelt of the Nutria is not prized as a valuable fur and has little commercial value.
Invasion of Chinese Tallow Tree:
The forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria) is a serious enemy of the Water Tupelo. More than 500,000 acres of trees along the gulf coast from Louisiana through Alabama have been defoliated by this insect in a single year.
Forest Tent Caterpillars eating
the buds of a Water tupelo tree
Example of Subsidence: Picture shows an area of San Joaquin Valley in CA where the land level has sunk due to removal of water from aquifers for irrigation.
Land elevation in 1925
Land elevation in 1977
Link to website that shows future effects of habitat enchroachment due to development. (Follow the “click here” instructions on the site to see the predicted effects of human expansion in the Charleston, SC area.)
Now, what is the story behind Henry Ford’s connection to Cypress-Tupelo Swamps?
Spanish Moss is a product of the southern states, primarily Louisiana and Florida.
A load of Spanish Moss harvested and ready for sale.
Henry Ford purchased the Spanish Moss to use as stuffing for automobile seats in his Model T’s.
The Spanish Moss Henry Ford purchased was shipped in Bald Cypress crates.
He used the Cypress crating it was packed in as paneling for his trucks and dashboard material for the cars he made. Bald cypress wood is very weather resistant, resists rot, can be finished to a beautiful luster and it was free.