Cypress Mulch

Cypress mulch may come from locally grown trees, even in the north. But there is environmental controversy about harvesting the trees for mulch. October 25, 2006

Recently the question about bug transfer from mulch from hurricane regions came up. I thought you would like to know that here in central Iowa, I have seen at least a dozen stores selling cypress mulch. Last time I checked, we were lacking in cypress here in Iowa. I'm not concerned about the bugs in the bags because they have been sitting in the sun for sometime, so if there was anything in them, I'm sure it's cooked by now, but what I would like to know is, will this cypress on the ground here attract unwanted pests, such as termites? And is cypress even a good mulch, or should I stick with the tried and true cedar?

Forum Respsonses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor D:
Cypress mulch is made from bald or pond cypress that was harvested for the sole purpose of making mulch. It is not a good choice for mulch because of the devastation to the swamps and wetlands where it was harvested. Most times, it is a clear cut process leaving nothing but stumps.

The best mulch is recycled mulch from power line cleanups which is usually free. I prefer to use pine straw, since it is both a renewable resource and in most cases, it is inexpensive or you can rake it up and it is free.

From contributor J:
All ethical and moral issues aside, cypress performs well as a mulch. It is rot and decay resistant (that is why it grows in swamps). Termites don't seem to like it much. Cypress also gets cut for lumber to make fencing and siding and other outdoor items. If you get a splinter, it will swell and puss up really badly and is painful because it really likes to absorb water, so wear gloves.

I have used power line mulch and it lasts for a season and is rotted the next, depending on the species. Great if you want to make compost. I have also seen harvester ants, fire ants, carpenter ants, termites and all sorts of other insects delivered in loads of the stuff.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:

The cost of trucking cypress mulch from LA to Iowa would be huge. Rather, you probably have cypress mulch from Iowa or maybe MO, where it does indeed grow.

Here is a paragraph from Iowa State Hort. Dept.:
"Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is a deciduous conifer. Native to swamps in the southeastern United States, it does surprisingly well in the north. In Iowa, it performs best in the southern portion of the state. The foliage is an attractive yellow-green in the spring and turns to russet in the fall. The bald cypress possesses a pyramidal growth habit and may eventually reach a height of 50 feet."

From contributor H:
Just a quick clarifier - cypress does not grow in wetlands due to decay and rot resistance. Cypress has morphological and physiological adaptations that allow it to out-compete other non-wetland species. Locust is a species we have much of locally and is hailed as being rot and decay resistant, but is strictly an upland species and is very infrequently found in wetland environments.

Dr. Gene, does cypress wood (or other wetland trees such as green ash and pin oak) exhibit similar characteristics of other tree species that are sometimes found in bottom lands? As an example, I understand that a red oak that grows in a bottom land environment will show larger growth rings, and less dense wood structure vs. a red oak that grows in a drier upland landscape. Do the cypress and other wet tolerant species across the board have the same less dense, weaker structured wood as an oak found in a bottomland hardwood local?

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Fast grown softwoods are weaker, while fast grown, ring porous hardwoods are stronger.

From contributor R:
A lot of the cypress mulch from around here comes from mill waste, tops and what would be pulpwood in pine. Most of the loggers will sort out the saw and veneer logs. I haven't seen a clear cut of a cypress head in our area that was due to logging only.

From contributor D:
Here in north Florida there are several cypress mulch manufacturers that are very large operations. They have no saw timber taken there, it is all just for mulch. Our company does wetland restoration projects and some of these projects are complete cutovers just for cypress mulch.