Around 1995, Brookfield Zoo opened it's Swamp Exhibit. It was then that I became acquainted with the tree I will tell you about in a later paragraph.
One of the many things that made that exhibit special was that it was an immersion experience. It was designed to touch most of your senses. You walked into a darkened room so you felt like you were deep into the Cypress forest. The sounds of hooting owls, woodpeckers, and insects were played. The floor was made from recycled tires that squished slightly as you walked, and a machine would occasionally pump fog into the exhibit. It is home to Egrets, Herons, Wood Storks, Cormorants, Alligators, Otters, and more.
But, the exhibit experience actually starts before you even walk through the door. Outside are planted beautiful Bald Cypress trees. These are unusual because while it is a conifer, with needles...it is not quite like the expected evergreen. Each Fall the needles turn a rusty orange and begin to drop. Thus, having a 'bald' appearance through the winter. One of my favorite things to see each year is the soft, Spring green needles appear against the reddish bark of the tree. It has a male 'flower' called a catkin that grows in late fall, and the female part will grow near the base. Together it is called a strobili.
This branch had fallen from a tree in Elmhurst.
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Branch with catkins at the end.
Bald Cypress leaf
This image is not mine. Couldn't find the photographer to give credit. This was the best pic I could find of its' color.