The Medicinal Plant Garden

of Birmingham-Southern College

  • Taxodium distichum
  • Taxodium distichum
  • Taxodium distichum

Common Name

Bald Cypress tree, Southern bald cypress, Deciduous cypress

Related Species

Taxodium ascendens, T. mexicanum (But all three species may be variants of T. distichum (Su et al., 2013).)

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

T. distichum requires wet soils, therefore is found along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Delaware south. It is also found along the Gulf Coast into Texas. It can also be found along streams inland, from Oklahoma to Missouri, Illinois, and a small part of Indiana. It requires a soil with plenty of near constant moisture. It is found in fine sand and clay. It is found on flat topography and is generally at elevations less than 100 feet above sea level. It is described as an obligate wetland tree that naturally occurs in wetlands (USDA).

Description

T. distichum is a perennial gymnosperm in the family Cupressaceae. Its growth pattern is a tree. The trees can be up to 120 feet in height and 3 foot 6 inches in diameter. It has alternate, linear, flat leaves. The tree has a taproot with horizontal roots that can expand horizontally up to 50 feet before bending down.

Portion of the Plant Used

The cones, seeds, leaves, and bark of Taxodium spp. have been used for medicinal purposes (Su et al., 2013). The oils in the cones and sometimes leaves of these trees are what are generally used for medicinal purposes.

Traditional Uses

The Aztecs used resin from or pieces of burnt bark topically to treat burns and sores (Cortes-Arroyo et al., 2011).The Aztecs used parts of a tree they called anoéhoetl, believed to be T. macrunatum, commonly known as the Montezuma Cypress, to cure ulcers and to help with skin cicatrization. (Kay, 2012).

In more recent times, the leaves and seeds have been used to treat malaria and liver diseases, and various parts of the tree have been used to prepare ointments or infusions for heart disease, hemorrhoids, gout, ulcers, bronchitis, diarrhea, and other ailments (Ramos et al., 1984; Perusquía et al., 1995; Cortés-Arroyo et al., 2011; Su et al., 2013).

Research

Although there are many preliminary reports of antibacterial, antifungal, antitumor, antispasmodic, and bronchodilator activities of Taxodium spp., little characterization of the bioactive compounds has been performed (reviewed in Su et al., 2013). The antitumor and antimicrobial activities of the diterpene DNA-binding compound, taxodione, isolated from T. distichum have been evaluated (Zaghloul et al., 2008; Kusomoto et al., 2009; Kusomoto et al., 2010). Another diterpene, taxodistine B, inhibits tubulin polymerization and is toxic to murine lymphoma P388 cells (Hirasawa et al., 2007).