Taxodium mucronatum

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Taxodium mucronatum
at El Sabinal, Aguascalientes, Mexico
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnospermae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Cupressales
Family: Cupressaceae
Genus: Taxodium
T. mucronatum
Binomial name
Taxodium mucronatum
Natural range

Taxodium distichum var. mucronatum (Ten.) A.Henry
Taxodium mexicanum Carrière
Taxodium distichum var. mexicanum (Carrière) Gordon
Cuprespinnata mexicana (Carrière) J.Nelson
Taxodium huegelii C.Lawson[2]

Taxodium mucronatum, commonly known as Montezuma bald cypress,[4] Montezuma cypress,[5] or ahuehuete,[5] is a species of Taxodium that is primarily native to Mexico and Guatemala, with a few populations in the southwestern United States.[6] Ahuehuete is derived from the Nahuatl name for the tree, āhuēhuētl, which means "upright drum in water"[7] or "old man of the water."[3]


It is a large evergreen or semi-evergreen tree growing to 40 m (130 ft) tall and with a trunk of 1–3 m (3.3–9.8 ft) diameter (occasionally much more; see below). The leaves are spirally arranged but twisted at the base to lie in two horizontal ranks, 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) long and 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) broad. The cones are ovoid, 1.5–2.5 cm (0.59–0.98 in) long and 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) broad. Unlike bald cypress and pond cypress, Montezuma cypress rarely produces cypress knees from the roots.[3] Trees from the Mexican highlands achieve a notable stoutness.

One specimen, the Árbol del Tule in Santa María del Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico, is the stoutest tree in the world with a diameter of 11.42 m (37.5 ft). Several other specimens from 3–6 m (9.8–19.7 ft) diameter are known. The second stoutest tree in the world is the Big Baobab, an African baobab.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Montezuma bald cypress (Taxodium mucronatum), growing on the Rio Pilón near Villagrán, Municipality of Villagrán, Tamaulipas, Mexico (9 August 2005)

Montezuma cypress is primarily a riparian tree, growing along upland riversides, but can also be found next to springs and marshes. It occurs from 300 to 2,500 m (980 to 8,200 ft), in Mexico mainly in highlands at 1,600–2,300 m (5,200–7,500 ft) in altitude. T. mucronatum is very drought-tolerant and fast-growing[8] and favors climates that are rainy throughout the year or at least with high summer rainfall.

Taxodium mucronatum is native to much of Mexico as far south as the highlands of southern Mexico.[3] Two disjunct populations exist in the United States. One is in the Rio Grande Valley of southernmost Texas, while the other is in southern New Mexico, near Las Cruces.[9][10] Within Guatemala, the tree is restricted to Huehuetenango Department.[6]


"Árbol del Tule", in Santa María del Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico

The sabino became the national tree of Mexico in 1910.[11] The tree is sacred to the native peoples of Mexico, and is featured in the Zapotec creation myth.[12] To the Aztecs, the combined shade of an āhuēhuētl and a pōchōtl (Ceiba pentandra) metaphorically represented a ruler's authority.[13] According to legend,[14] Hernán Cortés wept under an ahuehuete in Popotla[15] after suffering defeat during the Battle of La Noche Triste.[16]

This plant is mentioned in the 2015 short story "Rivers" by John Keene, which reimagines the story of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.[17]


An 1875 painting, Ahuehuetes en Chapultepec, by José María Velasco Gómez depicting the cypress by the lake in Chapultepec.

Montezuma cypresses have been used as ornamental trees since Pre-Columbian times. The Aztecs planted āhuēhuētl along processional paths in the gardens of Chapultepec because of its association with government.[18] Artificial islands called chinampas were formed in the shallow lakes of the Valley of Mexico by adding soil to rectangular areas enclosed by trees such as āhuēhuētl;[3] they also lined the region's canals prior to Spanish conquest.[11]

Ahuehuetes are frequently cultivated in Mexican parks and gardens. The wood is used to make house beams and furniture,.[16] The Aztecs used its resin to treat gout, ulcers, skin diseases, wounds, and toothaches. A decoction made from the bark was used as a diuretic and an emmenagogue. Pitch derived from the wood was used as a cure for bronchitis The leaves acted as a relaxant and could help reduce itching.[19] In some parts of Mexico the foliage is used to decorate church altars during religious ceremonies.[20]

John Naka, a world-renowned bonsai master, donated his very first bonsai, a Montezuma cypress, to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum of the United States. [citation needed]

A linear grove is located in the main courtyard of the Getty Center Art Museum, thriving since 1995.[21]


  • Taxodium × ‘LaNana’ (T. distichum × T. mucronatum)[22]
  • Taxodium 'Zhongshansa' (T. distichum × T. mucronatum)[23]


  1. ^ Farjon, A. (2013). "Taxodium mucronatum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T34029A2840943. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T34029A2840943.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Taxodium huegelii C.Lawson — The Plant List". Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Taxodium mucronatum". The Gymnosperm Database. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  4. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Taxodium mucronatum". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Taxodium mucronatum". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  6. ^ a b Veblen, Thomas T. (1977). "Guatemalan Conifers". Unasylva. 29 (118). Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  7. ^ Andrews, James Richard (2003). Introduction to Classical Nahuatl. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 328. ISBN 978-0-8061-3452-9.
  8. ^ Creech, David; Lijing Zhou; Yin Yunlong; Teobaldo Eguiluz-Piedra (November 2011). "Can Taxodium Be Improved?" (PDF). Arnoldia. 69 (2). Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University: 11–20.
  9. ^ Melendrez, Michael Martin. "Search for the Answer". Retrieved 2017-12-09.
  10. ^ Hilaire, Rolston St. (1999). "105 Propagation of Taxodium mucronatum (Montezuma Cypress)". HortScience. 34 (3): 459. doi:10.21273/HORTSCI.34.3.459D.
  11. ^ a b Debreczy, Zsolt; István Rácz (Winter 1997–1998). "El Arbol del Tule: The Ancient Giant of Oaxaca" (PDF). Arnoldia. 57 (4). Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University: 3–11.
  12. ^ "Taxodium mucronatum Montezuma Bald Cypress". Cal Poly Plant Conservatory. California Polytechnic State University. Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  13. ^ Haskett, Robert (2007). "Primordial Titles" (PDF). Sources and Methods for the Study of Postconquest Mesoamerican Ethnohistory, Provisional Version. University of Oregon. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  14. ^ "Did Hernán Cortés really cry at the Tree of Sorrows?". Retrieved 2023-10-23.
  15. ^ Geiger, John Lewis (1874). A Peep at Mexico: Narrative of a Journey Across the Republic from the Pacific to the Gulf in December 1873 and January 1874. Trübner and Co. p. 268.
  16. ^ a b Felger, Richard Stephen; Matthew Brian Johnson; Michael Francis Wilson (2001). The Trees of Sonora, Mexico. Oxford University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-19-512891-8.
  17. ^ Keene, John (2015). Counternarritives. New York: New Directions. p. 235.
  18. ^ Evans, Susan Toby (2007). Michel Conan W. John Kress (ed.). Botanical Progress, Horticultural Innovation and Cultural Changes. Vol. 28. Dumbarton Oaks. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-88402-327-2.
  19. ^ Sullivan, Janet (1994). "Taxodium mucronatum". Fire Effects Information System. United States Forest Service. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  20. ^ "Taxodium mucronatum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  21. ^ Smaus, Robert (1997-12-14). "A Gardener's Getty". Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ Creech, David. "Taxodium X 406" (PDF). SFA Gardens. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  23. ^ "Taxodium 'Zhongshansa' NANJING BEAUTY". Plant Finder. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2017-12-10.

General references[edit]

  • Eguiluz T. 1982. Clima y Distribución del género pinus en México. Distrito Federal. Mexico.
  • Rzedowski J. 1983. Vegetación de México. Distrito Federal, Mexico.
  • Martínez, Maximinio. 1978. Catálogo de nombres vulgares y científicos de plantas mexicanas.

External links[edit]

  • "Taxodium mucronatum" (PDF). Digital Representations of Tree Species Range Maps from "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little Jr. (and other publications). United States Geological Survey.