Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich. var. distichum [baldcypress (BC)], Taxodium distichum var. mexicanum Gordon [Montezuma cypress (MC)], and a Taxodium hybrid (\'Nanjing Beauty\': BC x MC cross, T302) were evaluated for salt tolerance in 2006 at Nacogdoches, TX. Plants were irrigated weekly with four levels of salinity [0, 1, 3.5, and 6 ppt (0, 17, 60, and 102 mol*m-3)] for 13 weeks and then 0, 2, 7, and 12 ppt (0, 34, 120, and 204 mol*m-3) for another 12 weeks. Salinity treatments did not have a significant effect on growth rate; however, there were significant differences in growth rate among the three genotypes. Genotype T302 produced the greatest wet weight, whereas MC had stronger apical dominance and exhibited the greatest increase in height over the course of study. As expected, sodium (Na) concentration in Taxodium leaves increased as sea salt concentrations increased but did not tilt Na/potassium (K) ratios to stressful disproportions. Of the three genotypes, BC exhibited the highest leaf content of Na, calcium (Ca), sulfur (S), and iron (Fe); MC had the lowest leaf content of Na, Ca, S, and Fe; and T302 was intermediate. The benefits of using a hybrid cross (T302) that maintains greater biomass than BC or MC across a range of salinities must be weighed against the potential additional pruning and training necessary for cutting-grown clones relative to BC and MC propagated from seed and flood tolerance relative to BC. Still, combining the best characteristics of different varieties of T. distichum should facilitate the production of favorable genotypes tolerant to a number of soil physical and chemical property fluctuations for arboricultural operations.
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Can we improve the salinity tolerance of genotypes of Taxodium by using varietal and hybrid crosses?