Listening to the Fredericksburg Cypress

Mexican Cypress tree on Thanksgiving Day (2010)

Earlier today, I wrote the post below about identifying the tree pictured in this post.  I have since identified it as a Mexican Cypress tree.  Brenda and I drove back to the tree before we had our Thanksgiving dinner at August E’s in Fredericksburg, and as soon as we rounded the corner, she said, “That’s a cypress.”  I snapped more photographs and have factored attributes so that I am reasonably confident that this is a Mexican Cypress.  Other exotic nomenclature includes Montezuma Bald Cypress, Sabino, Ahuehuete and Cipres.

* * *

On one plane, I identify the tree because it is scientific to do so, giving a living thing a name that can be recognized across the community of naturalists so as to place it, give it provenance.  It is curiosity that prompts me to go back to this living, breathing organism and know its name, history and classic place in the scientific literature.  I might, in researching, find that this Mexican Cypress has healing qualities from its sap, its perfume.  It may even be a thing I would lace about my neck so that its scent alleviates anguish, propelling kinship with an organism that does not march across Texas, but sits still, in the yard of an old German land grant, most patient, most alive and most still.

On another plane, different and perhaps redemptive, is the search for connection in nature, in a world that seems so repelled by these things — trees, wild animals, un-managed waters — that all things wild are seen as a cropping, a harvesting opportunity.  I find that the cypress tree tells me something 1000 fathoms deep in the sea.  It says, I am the shade for your cattle, for your family reunions and my timber will eventually be your table, even your fire to warm you.  But, I will do those things only if you choose me to do so.  I will remain complacent and here until that day you choose to use me or ignore me in your work.

The cypress tree is named Mexican Cypress and is forty-feet tall, but it tells us something beyond the graph paper of science.  Are we listening?

The following photographs were snapped on Thanksgiving Day, my second effort at identification, giving rise to the above post.


The post that follows below was written earlier today.

Before identification, one of two photographs that started the identification process (photographed the day before Thanksgiving, 2010).

In 1846, German immigrants settled Fredericksburg, Texas.  They brought seed and domesticated animals, planting corn most quickly.  I am in the town — population about 4,000 — and have been walking through older sections of town and I came upon this tree, pictured above.  It’s a most unusual tree, but I live 180 miles north of here in another life zone, so I am unaccustomed to the botany here.  I will continue this post later today or early in the morning with more photographs, but for now I am stumped on the identification of the tree.  I only have two photographs and the above shot is the best and it’s not all that good artistically or for the field record.  It’s all I have at the moment.  I did not get stimulated to type this until I couldn’t find botanical attributes quickly.

At this moment, I have one possibility:

Montezuma Bald Cypress, Mexican Cypress, Sabino, Ahuehuete, Cipres
Taxodium mucronatum Description: Montezuma Bald Cypress is found from the Rio Grande River south to Guatemala, although it is uncommon to rare in Texas. The main difference between Montezuma Bald Cypress and Baldcypress is that Montezuma Baldcypress is evergreen and the male flowers are borne in long racemes, whereas common Baldcypress is deciduous and the male flowers are in short clusters. Since the extreme southern part of the state is the northernmost of its range, it has difficulty surviving winters farther north than San Antonio.

Fredericksburg is within the life zone for this tree.  What has me thrown off is the trunk of the tree that appears oak.  It may be a graft?

More later today.



Information from Native Trees of Texas, Texas A&M University, see link on my pages.

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Filed under Field Log

6 responses to “Listening to the Fredericksburg Cypress

  1. Hi Jack,
    What a delight to read about the hill country! 🙂 I used to live in Boerne, northwest of San Antonio. Fredericksburg was a favorite place of mine. Did you make it to Enchanted Rock?

    Really enjoyed reading your post about the cypress trees–the benefits of naming/research as well as one’s relationship to the natural world.

    Happy to have found your blog via twitter.

    • Hi Lene: No, we haven’t made it there yet. Maybe on the next trip. It has turned cold — upper 20s. We’ll look around this morning and head back home. Thank you for your comment. Hope you can read my posts again that interest you.

  2. Kittie Howard

    Don’t know but have a hunch there was a graft as I’ve read where immigrants brought grafts over. And the wines in South Africa sprang from grafts snuck in from France. I like mysteries like this that tickle the imagination. Good eyes, Jack, for recognizing the tree’s potential!

  3. Anonymous

    That tree is actually a Deodar Cedar, native to South Asia. An even better specimen of this tree can be found in Fbg. a few blocks to the south at the corner of Lincoln and San Antonio.

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