Bald Cypress

Un cipresso calvo nel contesto vegetale di Villa Crivelli Pusterla a Limbiate (Fototeca ISAL, fotografia di Anna Zaffaroni)
A Bald Cypress among the plants of Villa Crivelli Pusterla in Limbiate (ISAL Photo Archive, photograph by di Anna Zaffaroni)


In the historical park of Limbiate, upon going eastward down a tree-lined walkway, you reach a clearing that opens out to offer a view of the Villa Crivelli Pusterla, and from where you can admire the Villa in all its magnificence. The spot is preceded by small portions of meadows where there are imposing trees like the Atlas Cedar, yews, magnolias, and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), given this name because in autumn, the little branches and needle-shaped leaves fall to the ground. This was one of the first species of American trees to be introduced in Europe around 1640.

It is a deciduous, long-lived conifer from Northern and Central America and in the centenary examples can reach 35-40 metres in height. It has an erect trunk widened at the base and presents a thick brownish-red bark that often has fissures according to the plant’s age. The crown is pyramidal and along the years, tends to become disheveled. The leaves are linear, flat and light green in colour, and in autumn, before falling, turn golden, then brown and finally reddish.
The male and female strobili grow in long axillary cobs. The cones are round, woody and mature at the end of autumn, liberating the seeds. The main characteristic of the bald cypress lies in the roots that are planted deeply into alluvial soils, with little or almost no oxygenation, to then sprout some branches above the normal level of the water, also at a certain distance from the trunk. They can reach a remarkable height of about two metres and have a specialised root structure called pneumatophores, with pores in the barks that allow the air to enter and circulate in the roots. Because of these features the bald cypress is very common in parks and historical gardens of the Padan plane, often on the edges of canals, ponds and small lakes, where their breathing roots stick out.
The Taxodiums are one of the most interesting families of conifers, and their fossils trace back to about 150 million years ago. They currently are represented by widely dispersed species that are the remaining part of the population very diffused in the tertiary regions. They have needle-shaped and deciduous leaves inserted in spirals on branches with woody strobili. The deciduous Taxodium plants have leaves growing on the short lateral branches from brachiblast formation, together with which they fall in autumn, and in turn sprout on normal branches.
Unfortunately, in the absence of specific studies on the tree essences that once adorned the big garden of Villa Crivelli Pusterla, there is no way of establishing the extent of its presence in Limbiate, albeit some of its examples are still found in the vast park today.