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I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.

~e.e. cummings
CYPRESS MULCH Why kill a tree to grow a flower? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marjorie Holt   
Friday, July 10 2009


This brochure was written by Barbara Waddell and
the Pepper Patrol of Ruskin, Florida. Illustrations
by Susan Johnston (
Graphic Design by Mariella Johns Smith
Produced and distributed by the Suncoast Native
Plant Society, Inc., a chapter of the Florida Native
Plant Society.
Suncoast Native Plant Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 82893
Tampa, FL 33682-2893
Help save our beautiful
and environmentally valuable
native cypress.
Spread the word
and spread the right kinds
of mulch!
Cypress Mulch
Why kill a
tree to
grow a

1 National Audubon Society’s Corkscrew
Swamp Sanctuary in central Florida contains the
world’s largest remaining old-growth Bald
Cypress forest. In north Florida you can see some
very large old cypress trees in Florida’s first state
forest, Pine Log State Forest.
2 Several counties in Florida restrict cypress
mulch use. This is done by ordinances, land
development codes or regulations. Dade
County’s code for new developments #1897-
15(G)(3) even says, “cypress mulch shall not be
used because its harvest degrades cypress
wetlands.” And Florida Department of Transportation
Standard Specifications for Road and
Bridge Construction #580-8 says, “no cypress
mulch is allowed.”
3 There is more evidence that cypress does
not make the best mulch. According to the
Florida Cooperative Extension Service’s March
1994 Fact Sheet ENH 103, “When dry, cypress
mulch repels water, making it difficult to wet,
particularly if it is on a mound or slope.” Moreover,
once it is wet “cypress mulch appears to
have a high water-holding capacity that may
reduce the amount of water reaching the plant
root zone.”

You can help save our

cypress forests by using


friendly mulch

your home and business

landscaping, and by

asking your friends and

county government to do the

2 If you don’t nd alternative

mulches at your landscape supply store, enlighten the

manager and request alternatives.

The old idea that cypress mulch is superior to other

mulches is not true anymore. The old-growth cypress

harvested prior to the 1950’s had a reputation for

being rot- and termite-resistant. But those trees have

all been taken except for the few saved in our nature

preserves. It takes hundreds of years for a cypress

tree to grow the heartwood that used to have those

properties. The young cypress that are harvested

today are not decay or pest resistant and do not

make a superior mulch.3

In any garden supply

or nursery store you’re likely to see bags and bags of

cypress mulch for sale. Did you ever stop to think

about the resulting fate of our magnicent Florida

cypress tree?

The unique cypress forest is a beautiful Florida

treasure with an important ecological role. It naturally

lters pollutants and serves as a reservoir for -oodwater,

and so it is essential for protecting ground

water—quality and quantity. It is a prime habitat for

woodpeckers, wood storks, limpkins, several types of

owls, opossums, bobcats, and wood ducks. Cypress

forests protect our wildlife and our wetlands.

Almost all of Florida’s old-growth cypress forests are

gone now. They were clear-cut for lumber decades

ago. Most of the cypress stands we see today are

relatively young trees. You may be fortunate to still

see examples of huge old-growth cypress in a very

few nature preserves. They can live up to 1500 years

and grow up to 150 feet tall and 25 feet in girth. 1

Thousands of acres of cypress are

logged every year simply to produce

Most of Florida’s cypress sawmills are

mulch mills, grinding the entire tree in large chippers,

producing nothing but mulch. Cypress mulch used to

be produced mainly as a by-product of lumber

operations, but the increasing demand for mulch has

led to the use of whole trees—whole forests—for

nothing but mulch.

Cypress mulch is being clear-cut from our native

wetlands and the destroyed cypress trees are not

being replanted. (Establishing the proper hydrology

for cypress seed germination is di cult and rarely

accomplished by anyone but Mother Nature.) When a

cypress area is clear-cut and bare, that land is easily

taken over by invasive pest plants such as Brazilian

pepper. Sometimes the land is planted in pine for

future logging, or drained for development. Either

way, the cypress forest and its wetland and wildlife

are lost forever.

Alternative Mulches

Recycled Yard Waste

Mulch made by your county or city from recycled

urban plant debris is very inexpensive (or even free

in some areas). To locate your closest source,

contact your Solid Waste Department or county

Extension Service.

Pine Bark

An excellent mulch with long-lasting color, it is a

a by-product of the timber industry. Pine bark is

very eective in weed and seedling control.

Pine Straw

Available commercially by the bale, or free if you

rake it yourself. When purchased, pine straw is

more expensive by the cubic foot than pine bark,

but does not need as much to cover a given area.

Pine straw allows more mosture to penetrate to the

soil than other “chunky” mulches

Melaleuca Mulch

Melaleuca, or punk tree, is an invasive nonnative

tree that has taken over 500,000 acres

of the Florida Everglades. Turning this tree

into mulch helps rid the state of this terrible

pest plant. Hopefully this mulch will be sold

more widely as people learn to request it

from their stores. It is extremely long-lasting

and termite-resistant.

Cypress trees have “knees”

which grow from their roots

and protrude above the ground

or high water mark. The wood

stork, pictured here perched on

these cypress knees, is just one

of the many creatures which nd

refuge in cypress swamps.

Eucalyptus Mulch

Produced from plantation-grown trees, this mulch

is naturally insect-repellent, with a rich, longlasting


Fallen Leaves

Learn the value of your “yard waste.”

The leaves you rake, especially oak

leaves, are free, abundant, and make

a great mulch.

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