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Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: Facts About the Bald Cypress

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There are many cypress trees in Covington, but how much do we really know about them? Learn more about Louisiana’s State Tree here!

Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, is a deciduous conifer native to the southeastern United States in the family Cupressaceae. This is a conifer family with worldwide distribution and includes junipers and redwoods. There are 130 – 140 species total in the family.

The genus Taxodium are native to North America. The generic name is derived from the Latin word taxus, meaning “yew”, and the Greek word εἶδος (eidos), meaning “similar to.” Taxodium species grow pneumatophores, or cypress knees, when growing in or beside water. The function of these knees is currently a subject of ongoing research.

The bald cypress was designated the official state tree of Louisiana in 1963. Some consider it to be a symbol of the southern swamps of the United States.

Common names include bald cypress, baldcypress, swamp cypress, white cypress, tidewater red cypress, gulf cypress and red cypress.

Bald cypress in French is cyprès chauve.

The native range extends from southeastern New Jersey south to Florida and west to East Texas and southeastern Oklahoma, and also inland up the Mississippi River.

Ancient bald cypress forests, with some trees more than 1,700 years old, once dominated swamps in the Southeast. The largest remaining old-growth stands are at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, near Naples, Florida, and in the Three Sisters tract along eastern North Carolina’s Black River. The Black River trees were cored by dendrochronologist David Stahle from the University of Arkansas. He found that some began growing as early as 364 AD.

In 2012 scuba divers discovered an underwater cypress forest several miles off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, in 60 feet of water. The forest contains trees that could not be dated with radiocarbon methods, indicating that they are more than 50,000 years old and thus most likely lived in the early glacial interval of the last ice age. The cypress forest is well preserved, and when samples are cut they still smell like fresh cypress.

It typically grows to heights of 35–120 feet (10–40 m) and has a trunk diameter of 3–6 feet (0.9–1.8 m). The tallest known specimen, near Williamsburg, Virginia, is 44.11 m (145 ft) tall, and the stoutest known, in the Real County near Leaky, Texas, has a diameter at breast height of 475 in (39 ft).

This species is monoecious, with male and female flowers on a single plant forming on slender, tassel-like structures near the edge of branchlets. The tree flowers in April and the seeds ripen in October.

In good conditions, bald cypress grows fairly fast when young, then more slowly with age. Trees have been measured to reach 3 m in five years, 21 m in 41 years, and 36 m in height in 96 years; height growth has largely ceased by the time the trees are 200 years old.

National Champion Bald Cypress at Cat Island

The National Champion Bald Cypress is recognized as the largest member of its species in the country and is listed as such on the National Register of Champion Trees by American Forest. The National Champion Bald Cypress is in the Cat Island Nation Wildlife Refuge, near St. Francisville, Louisiana, and it is 83 feet tall with an 85-foot spread, a diameter of 16.5 feet and a girth of 49 feet. It is estimated to be approximately 1,500 years old.

Oldest living bald cypress at Three Sisters Swamp
in North Carolina,
the oldest bald cypress swamp in the world

The oldest known living specimen, found along the Black River in North Carolina, is at least 2,624 years old, rendering it the oldest living tree in eastern North America.

Bald cypress cones don’t actually look like cones at all. Their cone structure is round and about one inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. When cones appear in autumn, they are tough and green, but they become woody as the season progresses. Each cone is made of a number of scales, and each scale is associated with two triangular seeds. Seeds are eaten by wild turkey, wood ducks, evening grosbeak, water birds, and squirrels.

The lumber is valuable for building construction, fence posts, planking in boats, river pilings, doors, blinds, flooring, shingles, garden boxes, caskets, interior trim and cabinetry. In virgin stands, yields from 112 to 196 m³/ha were common, and some stands may have exceeded 1,000 m³/ha. The odorless wood, which closely resembles that of other Cupressus species, has long been valued for its resistance to water.

Box made from sinker cypress

Still usable prehistoric wood is often found in swamps as far north as New Jersey, and occasionally as far north as Connecticut, although it is more common in the southeastern states. The density of the wood causes the logs to sink rather than float, allowing it to sit underwater for years to petrify, and leading to the common name ‘sinker cypress’. This partially mineralized wood is harvested from swamps in the southeastern states, and is greatly prized for special uses such as for carvings.

The bald cypress was used by Native Americans to create coffins, homes, drums and canoes.

The fungus Lauriliella taxodii causes a specific form of the wood called “pecky cypress”, which is used for decorative wall paneling.

Bald cypress logging and trade is historically an integral part of Louisiana economy, particularly between 1700 – 1960. French “swampers” traditionally would log by hand, securing enormous trees to rafts and transporting them on land by horse or oxen.

Interest in bald cypress as a landscape tree is considerable. Many landscape horticulturists use this tree in their plantings, and it is one of the top five tree species planted in Louisiana.

A botanical variety of bald cypress called pond cypress (Taxodium distichum var. nutans) has finer-textured foliage than bald cypress and is more upright. Foliage color can be attractive with new growth in spring, and most trees have rusty brown fall foliage that lingers into early to mid-December in south Louisiana.

Montezuma cypress is another variety to consider planting, but these are not as readily available at Louisiana garden centers. These bald cypress relatives have no knees.

Bald cypress provide a number of great benefits to the landscape. So consider adding Louisiana’s state tree to your landscape. September through November is a great time to plant one.

Sources:

Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: the Pecan Tree, a Southern Tradition

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by Chelsea Cochrane

Pecan tree orchard with autumn leaves

The pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) is a species of hickory native to the Mississippi River region and into northern Mexico. These majestic trees can grow 100 – 140 feet tall and can live as long as 300 years. Many old and young trees can be spotted in the Covington area, some remnants of the vast pecan groves and orchards that once speckled the South.

Its not an event without mini pecan pies!

Pecans are certainly a staple of southern living, a necessity in several baking recipes and an all-around healthy snack. Texas named the pecan the state’s official “health nut”, as well as the state tree, and pecan pie the state’s official pie. They’re a little nuts about pecans, but they’re not the only ones – the pecan is also the state nut of Arkansas and Alabama, and one of California’s four state nuts (don’t even talk to them about nuts). There’s a reason everyone loves pecans – besides being delicious, they’re good for you too, benefiting blood cholesterol levels, rich in vitamins, and containing high levels of antioxidants.

To see what all the hype is about, you’ll have to understand that pecans once played a large role in southern economics, and are still a major trade today. The only edible major tree nut native to North America, its use can be traced back to 16th century Native American cultivation and trade. The name “pecan” comes from the Algonquin word “pacane” meaning “nuts requiring a stone to crack”. Pecans became a large part of Native culture and were even used as a form of currency for a time.

Pecans are among the most recently domesticated major crops, first cultivated commercially in the 1840’s here in Louisiana. A black slave by the name of Antoine at the Oak Alley Plantation was the first to successfully graft a wild cultivar, creating an improved variety for propagation and thus budding the pecan industry. Pecans quickly grew in popularity and spread across the nation, from coast to coast and as far east as New York. To this day the US is still the largest producer of pecans, boasting 300 million pounds per year.

From the USDA: “Almonds and pecans are the major tree nut crops produced in the United States, followed by pistachios and walnuts. More than 98 percent of the acreage in almonds, pistachios, and walnuts is found in California. Seventy-four percent of the pecan tree acreage is in three states — Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia. The pecan acreage includes both native and improved tree varieties. The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows there are 1.86 million acres of tree nuts in the United States.”

from the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture

Pecans aren’t actually nuts

Still green “fruit” of the pecan tree

Not to burst anyone’s bubble (especially Texas) but the pecan is not actually a nut. Often classified in the somewhat indistinct realm of “edible nuts”, pecans join pistachios, cashews, almonds and walnuts in the also hazy “drupe” or stone fruit classification. This distinction is made because unlike true nuts that contain both the fruit and the seed of the plant, drupes are fruit containing a hard-shelled seed within. Apricots, peaches, plums and cherries are also examples of drupes, just ones where we eat the fruit rather than the seed! The lines between classifying drupes and berries gets a little fuzzier, and has caused some arguments and long-standing grudges in the scientific community. Isn’t botany fun?

Pecans in Covington

Pecans can adapt to a variety of environments but thrive in full sun, warmer climates and sandy well-drained soil, making the Mississippi and adjoining rivers an ideal habitat. The Port of New Orleans became the main exporter of these southern-loving trees, whose soft wood also gained popularity in fine furniture making and in cooking, as a flavor enhancer for smoked meats like other types of hickory. Pecan orchards and maintained groves began popping up everywhere in the south.

Many older Covington natives can remember large groves of pecans along the river and around Claiborne Hill. The Alexius family owned a track of land on Three Rivers Road dubbed “Alexiusville” that was home to vast pecan groves as well. If you look around downtown you will find some magnificent older trees that are still producing. You may even have one in your backyard!

Caring for your Pecan Tree

If you are lucky enough to have one of these big beauties then you know one tree can provide an incredible amount of fruit. Pecans are slow to produce, often taking 10 – 15 years to mature from seedling. A single pecan tree in its 10th growing season can produce 50 lbs, while a more mature tree into its 15th season or more can drop over 100 lbs of pecans! Most of these will be eaten by squirrels however, if you aren’t quick.

Many variety are alternate-bearing, meaning that they will produce heavily one year and then very little the next year, or in some cases next several years. This can be helped sometimes with extra fertilizing. Trees will deplete much more nutrients on heavy-bearing years and need time to catch back up. Zinc is a common additive to help pecans produce a strong harvest.

photo by Carol M Highsmith of Texas pecan farmer

Learn more about pecans at the National Pecan Shellers Association’s website ilovepecans.org!

General Local Events Local News

Covington Historic District Presentation

Published by:

The City of Covington contracted Cox / McLain Environmental

Consulting (CMEC) of Austin, Texas, to complete a historic

resources survey for the City. The Division of St. John

Historic District was listed on the National Register of

Historic Places (NRHP) in 1982 and represents the historic

core of the City of Covington. Historians from CMEC

conducted fieldwork for the survey in the fall of 2017.

The 2017 survey updated the existing inventory of

historic-age resources within the Division of St. John NRHP

District.

This effort included documenting resources that had become

historic age since the NRHP nomination was completed and

noting buildings that no longer exist. CMEC evaluated the

integrity of each historic-age building and assigned

contributing or noncontributing status to each resource.

CMEC historians also conducted a windshield survey of

select resources outside of the Division of St. John,

including properties in the Division of Spring.

As a result of the survey, CMEC recommends that the NRHP

nomination for the Division of St. John be formally updated

with the National Park Service and that the City establish

a local historic district in Spring. Amending the NRHP

nomination and establishing a local historic district in

Spring could extend benefits, such as tax credits and grant

opportunities, to property owners within these districts.

In addition to assessing the properties as they relate to

historic districts, CMEC evaluated eligibility for

individual listing in the NRHP. Nine historic-age resources

are recommended eligible for individual listing in the

NRHP.

On April 10, 2018, the results of the survey will be

presented at a Public Meeting at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will

be held in the City of Covington, Council Chambers located

at 222 Kirkland Street in Covington, LA.

For additional information, contact Nahketah Bagby, City

Planner by email: nbagby@covla.com or by phone: (985) 867-1214

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if

you need special assistance, please contact the ADA

Coordinator at (892-1811) Covington City Hall describing

the assistance that is necessary.

Local Events Local News Non Profit Spotlight

Tammany Together Presents Two Community Events This Weekend

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Tammany Together Evening with AlliesJoin Tammany Together for ‘An Evening With Allies’, a party full of fun – no frack – at the Pontchartrain Yacht Club in Mandeville this Friday, January 9th starting at 8 pm. The event will honor Adam and Amber Briggle, two of the architects behind the ban on fracking in Denton, Texas, who have now come to St. Tammany to share their success story and help guide the efforts in place here.

Tickets are $15 a person and include food catered by Kaysey Hasslock, live cajun/zydeco/swamp pop music by Waylon Thibodaux and jazz by the Dave Easley Trio, a silent auction, raffle, and a cash bar. All at the beautiful Pontchartrain Yacht Club on the lakefront! Tammany Together asks to please make reservations in advance at frackingabsurd.com to have an accurate count on attendees. All proceeds over costs will go to the Tammany Together Education Fund Fracking Education Campaign.

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Denton + St. TammanyIf you would like to learn more about the efforts being made by Tammany Together and other groups active in the cause, a Symposium will be held Saturday January 10th at the Covington City Council Chambers. This event is hosted by Adam and Amber Briggle, who will be explaining what the people of Denton, TX, did to put a ban on fracking in place. The Symposium will begin at 1 pm, right after the Farmers Market.

Both events are sponsored by Tammany Together, bringing together St. Tammany Parish citizens to unite their efforts, learn from one another, have a lot of fun, and strengthen the community while they’re at it.

Visit fracking-101.webs.com for more info