Mulches - Why Extension Recommends That You NOT Use Cypress Mulch in Your Landscape

by BJ Jarvis
 Pasco County Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent
  
Cypress trees are being cut out of Florida's wetlands at a rate that is faster than the rate cypress can naturally grow or regrow.
 
In Florida, 129,000 tons of cypress mulch and 145,000 tons of cypress lumber are produced per year from wetland cypress trees.

Per year, 20.4 million cubic feet of cypress are cut, but the trees' natural replacement growth is only 17.1 million cubic feet; If this keeps up or increases, we will soon run out of cypress trees.
 
Cypress trees are essential components of Florida's wetlands, and wetlands are vital ecosystems that directly or indirectly benefit all life in this state, including human life.


Ask your nursery or garden store for good plant-based mulch choices such as melaleuca, eucalyptus, pine bark or pine needles.
melaleuca tree (punk tree)
Melaleuca flower (punk flower)
The bark of a melaleuca tree (punk tree)
 A Better Choice

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 Melaleuca is an invasive exotic that is taking over wetlands by inhibiting the growth of native plants.  It makes a very good mulch and it is the most resistant of all the organic mulches from termites.  Increased demand from homeowners and commercial locations for melaleuca mulch has increased  the removal of melaleuca from our wetlands.
 Other Choices

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 Pine bark and needles are leftover by-products of the pine lumber industry, which harvests pine trees from commercial plantations.

Eucalyptus mulch comes from trees grown in plantations specifically to produce mulch. 
Inorganic Mulches

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There are numerous inorganic (non-living) mulches which have limited benefits:

(1) Stone will reduce weed competition - but little else.  They also tend to look unsightly after a short amount of time as soil and weeds move between the rock.

(2) Rubber mulches are great for buffering falls on playgrounds but provide few benefits in the landscape.
Benefits of Organic Mulches

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 Moderate soil temperatures - In west central Florida, this is important year-round.  Obviously, keeping the soil temperatures down in summer minimizes the negative influence of hot days (soil temperatures can be 10-20 degrees or higher without mulch), particularly during times of drought.  In the winter time, the difference between plant death and a few brown leaves following a frosty night is usually just a couple degrees.  Mulch helps moderate those cold nighttime temperatures.

Maintain soil moisture - Rainfall is fickle in west central Florida, yet plants' needs are fairly even over a particular season.  Maintaining consistent soil moisture is critical to plant success.  Mulches are a very efficient and cost-effective way of evening out moisture available for plant absorption.

Reduce weed competition - None of us want to spend lots of precious "down time" pulling competitive weeds.  A 3" to 4" layer of mulch minimizes the amount of weeds that can germinate, sapping soil moisture and nutrients from the desirable landscaping plants.

Termites and Mulches

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(1) Keep back from foundations.
(2) Keep back from tree trunks.

All wood (cellulose) is susceptible to termite feeding.  The trick is to choose a mulch that is resistant to termites and to apply mulch in a way that will discourage damaging actions.
More Information regarding mulches

 

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