Cypress Mulch: The Good, The Bad, and The Alternative
Cypress mulch is any mulch made from the wood of bald cypress or pond cypress trees. While these trees are relatively hardy and can adapt to a wide range of soil types, they are most commonly found in the swamps of Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and the Carolinas.
Cypress trees were a very important part of our history and, if we’re careful, can be a very important piece of our future.
The Significance of Cypress Trees
The cypress is a legendary tree, not only because of its incredible lifespan (some live more than 2000 years) but also because of its historical significance.
Revered by early settlers to the Southeastern US, the rot-resistant wood of the bald cypress was widely used to make shingles, siding, fence posts, doors, flooring, caskets, cabinetry, boats, and much more. This sent many loggers into the swamps in search of these incredible trees, and most notably, the older, larger trees of which they could mill the heartwood for lumber.
In addition to their value in building, cypresses have very important roles in the wild. Since they tend to grow in wetlands, they are excellent at trapping and managing pollutants from stormwater runoff. Animals like frogs, toads, and salamanders use bald cypress swamps as breeding grounds. Catfish spawn in the submerged hollow logs, and birds—like bald eagles and wood ducks—nest in their immense canopies and tree trunks.
Cypress Tree Protection
While cypress trees in the US are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, it is important to note that because of their slow growth habits and their preference for swampy environments, they are not a common tree crop (like pine trees).
In the past, when demand for cypress building products was high, byproducts like cypress mulch were made from the waste wood produced by sawmills. With the advent of new construction techniques, the demand for timber wood has declined but, the demand for mulch over the last several decades has increased significantly. This, plus the reduction of old-growth cypress forests, has led to an increase in the harvesting of smaller trees, like pond cypress, and less mature cypresses that would have previously been considered too small. As such, many parts of the Southeastern US have put restrictions on the harvesting of cypress trees to ensure they are protected for future generations.
While some large trees are still harvested for the building industry and these sawmills sell the mulch byproduct, it has become increasingly difficult to determine the origin of much of the cypress mulch on the market today.
Cypress Mulch Pros and Cons
All that aside, many of the properties that make cypress wood a great building product also make cypress mulch a great landscape product. Cypress mulch is:
- Naturally pest and fungus resistant
- Pleasing in appearance
- Good at reducing moisture evaporation
- Helpful for insulating the soil from extreme temperatures
- Great at suppressing weeds and weed seeds
- And, will feed the soil as it breaks down
But, so are most mulches.
In fact, cypress mulch is more acidic than hardwood mulch, meaning that it can cause problems for plants that don’t prefer acidic soil. It repels water more readily than most pine mulches and is more likely to be washed away in areas with heavy rainfall or flooding. Cypress mulch looks great but, we’d argue that it doesn’t look any better than most dyed pine mulches and even has a similar appearance to certain hardwood mulches.
Simulated Cypress Mulch at Gaston Mulch and Soil
If you need cypress mulch, we do keep an available supply on hand. Rest assured, that when you purchase cypress mulch from Gaston Mulch and Soil we only utilize sustainable methods to source our cypress mulch. In fact, all our cypress mulch is the result of waste products from cypress sawmills around the area.
If you simply want the benefits of cypress mulch, without the drawbacks, we suggest you consider our simulated cypress mulch. Our simulated cypress mulch is a double-ground blended hardwood mulch that looks and feels nearly identical to cypress but will be easier on your soil, your wallet, and the environment.
If you’d like to learn more about our cypress or simulated cypress mulches, contact the pros at Gaston Mulch and Soil today.