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South Texas Living

Old Baldy, a sight to behold

Old Baldy, a sight to behold

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August 1, 2012
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AUSTIN -- While Columbus made plans that would lead him to America, a little sapling in Central Texas was growing up along Onion Creek in what is now McKinney Falls State Park. Today, that tree, known as “Old Baldy,” is estimated to be more than 500 years old standing more than 100 feet tall.

In July, the Texas Forestry Service confirmed that the tree, last measured in the early 2000s at 60 feet, has grown more than 40 feet, with its highest leaf reaching more than 103 feet off the ground.

Old Baldy is known to be one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public lands in Texas. The tree is now more than 10 stories tall with a trunk circumference of 195 inches and a diameter of 60.5 inches. Its root system extends some 70 feet in all directions, which is about the length of two school buses parked end to end.

Bald cypress trees can grow 2.5 feet annually and are one of the last of an ancient species of trees in the Taxodium genus, which originally grew some 2.5 million years ago during the Cenozoic Era in the Pleistocene Epoch before the Ice Age.

Today these trees are found in the southern part of North America. Bald cypress trees get their name because they go “bald” in the winter, losing their leaves, where their cypress tree cousins stay green all year.

McKinney Falls is located in South Austin off S.H. 71 and U.S. 183.

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