Cypress-Tupelo swamps are a common ecosystem in Southeast Texas. These swamps play a very important role in providing a habitat for numerous species of animals. Their ability to store excess water benefits the area’s human population as well.
The many cypress and tupelo trees give the Shangri La swamp its name. These types of trees both have wide bases, or buttresses, which make them uniquely adapted to life in seasonally wet-dry swamps. There are two types of cypress trees in our swamp, bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens). These trees are called deciduous conifers, which means that they drop their leaves (needles) every year in the fall. Additionally, both species of cypress in our swamp develop small, round cones that mature in autumn and have distinctive peeling bark. They also produce “knees” that grow up from their roots to help anchor them in the seasonally flooded environment. The Tupelo trees (Nyssa aquatica), on the other hand, have bell-shaped trunks, develop bluish black fleshy fruits and have simple, oval-shaped leaves.
Many of the bald cypress trees throughout the southern U.S. were cut down in the late 1800s and the early 1900s because cypress was sought after for its termite-resistant qualities. Not surprisingly, bald cypress was a very popular wood for building in Southeast Texas. Today, Shangri La assists in the preservation of the remnant populations of these natural treasures through its land conservation, educational programs, and earth-friendly practices.