Taxodium mucronatum ::
Montezuma Bald Cypress
Native to Mexican swampland and scattered around the southern United States , the Montezuma bald cypress is a member of the Taxodiaceae or redwood family. The oldest living specimen is known as “El Tule” and can be found near Oaxaca , Mexico . With a circumference of 119 feet, it is considered the widest of all trees. This species often develops a massive trunk buttressed by additional trunks. According to reports from a Spanish priest in 1630, “El Tule” had started to hollow out and was damaged by a lightning strike. However, the tree is now regenerating and has grown back into the hollow areas (Lewington 40-43).
Taxodium mucronatum is evergreen, but its foliage appears red in the winter and spring months when new leaf buds are developing. There is a closely related deciduous species ( T. distichum) native to swamps of the southern U.S. T. mucronatum is a slow-growing tree in which the trunk appears to split as it grows, which gives the impression that one tree is actually several trees that have grown together. It grows well in the wet soil of swamplands and stream banks. Its bark is smooth to shallowly fissured and is red-brown in color.
The Montezuma bald cypress was sacred to the ancient peoples of Mexico and is linked to Zapotec creation myths. The Spanish term for the Montezuma bald cypress is viejos de agua, ancients of the water (Lewington 43).