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What is Cypress Mulch?

S. Gonzales
S. Gonzales

Cypress mulch is a popular gardening mulch derived from cypress trees which are native to the Southeastern United States. Unlike other mulches that are obtained from the leaves, branches and barks of trees, entire cypress trees have been known to be cut down and processed for the production of mulch. It can be found in local garden, home improvement and hardware stores.

Cypress mulch is most commonly used as a protective agent. It is placed over or around organic matter like plants, leaves or straw. It is meant to keep moisture from escaping, stop roots from freezing, halt weeds from growing and deter insects from attacking. Because of its popularity, the cypress logging industry has experienced a surge in business and now invests in growing and cutting down whole trees. In contrast, when the mulch was first introduced, only the byproducts of the logging industry were used to make mulch.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Gardeners or homeowners who place cypress mulch around their plants or flowers should be aware of some possible drawbacks of using it. Not all parts of cypress trees are created equally. For example, those who wish to experience the benefits of using cypress mulch have to do research and only purchase mulch that contains a high percentage of "heartwood," or the inner, darker and rigid part of a cypress tree that is only found in trees that are between 75 and 100 years old. Mulch that has been created from other parts of the tree may be considered filler and not as effective. Given this, not all types of cypress mulch deters insects from plants and flowers as commonly believed.

Besides being a good gardening tool, cypress mulch also has a reputation for being aesthetically pleasing. Many gardeners choose to use it because of its fine scent and attractive look. The mulch itself can be incorporated as part of a garden's decor or overall design.

Despite its popularity, using cypress mulch can be a controversial choice. Environmental activists oppose the use of cypress mulch because it infringes on the habitats of endangered species and compromises the effectiveness of forests that help combat pollution and serve as floodwater reservoirs. Cypress tree destruction also invites damage from hurricanes common in Florida and Louisiana. For those interested in using mulch, but are looking for an alternative to cypress, eucalyptus, pine bark, pine straw and promulch may be purchased.

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