Cypress mulch re-visited

After Jeff’s recent eclectic musical selection of Rasputina’s 1816, I thought I’d go a little more mainstream with Lynard Skynard’s ‘Swamp music’.  Turn it up and remember; if it’s too loud, you’re too old.

So, what got me thinking about the swampy backwoods down South and the late, great Ronnie Van Zant?  The arrival of pallet after pallet of bagged cypress mulch at every gas station/convenience store in the area.  Like the first robin, the annual appearance of bagged cypress mulch is another harbinger of spring.  Awhile back (Oct 2009 to be exact) I commented on efforts by some environmentalists to boycott cypress mulch.  The rationale behind the boycott is that cypress mulch is harvested from wetlands in Louisiana and Florida.  Many of these areas are environmentally sensitive and it is difficult to regenerate new stands after harvest because of frequent inundation.

In response to the calls for a boycott, the Louisiana Forestry Association countered with a series of Cypress FAQ’s. The Forestry Association, not surprisingly, deems the proposed boycott an overreaction, noting that cypress makes up only a small proportion of all timber harvested and that only about one-fifth of cypress harvested goes into mulch.  While it’s true that cypress is a comparatively minor species in terms of acres logged, much of this area includes some of the most sensitive ecosystems in the country.  And I was actually surprised to learn that the proportion of cypress that went into mulch was that high (20%).  Cypress timber is extremely valuable for decking and other high-end uses; I had always assumed mulch was a fairly minor component of the overall market.  But clearly, diverting a portion of the harvest to mulch could tip the balance and make some marginal logging operations profitable.

So, where do I come down on the boycott issue?  I suppose in a sense I boycott cypress mulch because I’ve never bought any and never intend to buy any.  Bob Schutzki and I conducted a study several years ago that showed that landscape shrubs grew as well or better when mulched with locally produced ground pine bark or ground hardwood bark than with cypress mulch.  Even mulch from ground recycled pallets (yes, that stuff dyed a red color not found in nature) did better than cypress.  So for me the issue has been moot.  Buy a local product and support your local forest products industry.

4 thoughts on “Cypress mulch re-visited”

  1. In our city the forestry department maintains provides free wood chips – as much as you can haul away. They are very coarse, but they do the trick. I like to mulch with the city wood chips plus leaves left over from the prior fall.

  2. In Wisconsin, wood chips are banned from landfills so that is not an issue. The only current exemption is for trees killed by DuPont’s herbicide Imprelis.

    The only problem I have with arborist wood chips is that they tend to be quite coarse. That makes them difficult to use around perennials. They work great around trees and shrubs.

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