Deciduous Conifers

Dec 11, 2023

People often ask, “What are the trees in Colonials courtyard?” Well, it’s a curiously beautiful type of tree called the Debonair pond cypress (Taxodium ascendens “Morris”) This particular tree, under proper growing conditions will reach roughly 60’ tall and have a spread of 20’. This tree is part of a genera of plants known as deciduous conifers, and I wanted to talk about this plant family.

Aren’t Conifers Evergreens?!

Conifers are often thought to be the perfect spruce in your neighbors’ yard, or the beautiful juniper hedge in the subdivision that you drive past every day, and you’re right. Conifers are a family of trees or shrubs that have needle or scale-like foliage that is typically evergreen and bear cones. Deciduous conifers are still conifers, but they create and drop a whole new set of needles every year. Let’s talk about the ones you’re most likely to see in Kansas City.

Taxodium- Bald Cypress and Pond Cypress

Bald Cypress and Pond Cypress (Taxodium distichum and Taxodium ascendens, respectively) are going to be the most common deciduous conifers in the KC area. They have soft, feathery, fern-like needles that turn a beautiful copper-bronze for fall before they shed for winter. They tend to be close to water in nature and can withstand complete inundation; however, they can survive dry, rocky, clay filled soil with aplomb with supplemental watering during drought conditions. Both species are Missouri natives and while they can get quite large, make a spectacular tree worthy of consideration for a large yard or greenspace.

Larix- Larch

While you may see these occasionally in a collector’s garden, they’re not common. While they can survive in Kansas City, their locations must be perfect to thrive. They require good, sharp drainage in the soil, as well as a break from the hot afternoon sun. Their needles are .5’’-1’’ long light green that turn a beautiful buttery yellow in the fall. This tree is much more common in the Northern states, as they take the colder winter and summer temperatures better than our constantly fluctuating temperatures in KC. There are several beautiful specimens at the Morton Arboretum outside of Chicago that must be visited the next time you visit the Windy City.

Metasequoia- Dawn Redwood

Often called the little cousin of the giant Coastal Redwoods, this beautiful giant will thrive in our harsh Midwest weather. They have a similar appearance to bald cypress, although the needles tend to be longer, and a richer, deeper green. They have an exceptional growth rate of 2’-3’ per year if watered and fertilized properly and will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. A 25-year-old tree will be 50’ tall or larger, depending on care and conditions; but will reach 100’ feet or more at maturity. Every time I see one of these trees, it conjures fine memories of my father and I planting some dawn redwood seedlings by our hunting cabin. Every time we go hunting, I always have to go visit these gentle giants and say hello.

In Closing

There are two other species, Glyptostroboides and Pseudolarix which are other deciduous conifers. I elected not to highlight them as they will not grow in our Kansas City, but I would be remiss to not mention them. Thank you for reading along with me, and please come see us here at Colonial Gardens soon!


Thanks for your thyme! - Trav

Written By "Trav the Tree Guy" Travis Morcha