Bald cypress, a native, seems to be an evergreen but drops its leaves

Backyard Q&A

In the Garden

October 26, 2003|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

I would like to plant several dawn redwood or bald cypress trees this fall. They seem very similar to me. What is the difference between the plants?

Both are deciduous trees with a soft ferny texture and upright pyramidal habit that give them the appearance of an evergreen tree. However, they turn orange to golden brown in the fall and drop all of their leaves like other deciduous trees.

From a distance, I have trouble distinguishing them. The best way to tell them apart is to look at the arrangement of the leaves. The leaves of dawn redwood (Metase-quoia glyptostroboides) are oppositely arranged, while the leaves of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) are spirally arranged around the stem. Bald cypress is native to portions of the eastern United States, and although it is generally accepted that dawn redwood once grew here (15 million years ago), it is considered a native of China.

Given that bald cypress is a native tree and seems to grow well here, I see no reason to plant dawn redwood. I would recommend planting bald cypress.

I am trying to decide whether I should dethatch my lawn or core-aerate my lawn. Will one treatment benefit my lawn more than the other?

Most lawn experts think both treatments are beneficial to lawns; however, the treatments have different purposes. Thatch is a mat of partially decomposed grass roots and stems that forms at the surface of the soil. It can prevent water and nutrients from moving into the soil, and it can have a smothering effect on lawns. If this were the problem, I would rent a dethatching machine and remove it.

Core aeration will help break up the thatch layer. However, it is primarily used to increase the permeability of tightly compacted soils. If you do not have a thatch problem, but you have heavy clay soil, you will get better results with a core aerator. It will pull plugs of compacted clay out of the soil and create cavities for air, water and nutrients to pass into the soil. This should stimulate your grass to grow.

Keep in mind that both procedures disturb your lawn. They should only be used if you have a problem with thatch or compacted soil.

Checklist

1. Grass seed planted now may not have time to get established before winter. Lay sod or wait until early spring to sow grass seed.

2. Protect newly planted fruit trees from voles by surrounding them with hardware cloth extending from below ground level to one foot up the trunk.

3. Place straw mulch loosely over spinach, garlic, carrots, turnips and other fall crops to protect them from hard freezes.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site www.hgic. umd.edu.

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