Cottonwood is one of our largest deciduous trees. It has a straight trunk and massive branches. The bark is ash-gray and has blocky ridges and deep furrows. Leaves are triangular in shape with toothed margins and an elongated tip. Fruits are produced in dangling clusters and open to release hundreds of fluffy seeds in late spring and early summer.
75-100’ tall; 50-75’ spread
Habitat and Range:
Eastern cottonwood is native throughout eastern North America and west throughout the Great Plains as far as the Rocky Mountains. It is an important tree of floodplain and riparian communities.
Eastern cottonwood is fast growing with relatively weak wood and a shallow root system that can damage sidewalks and sewer lines. It is generally not suitable for urban areas but could be a good choice for rural areas along streams or in other wet areas.
In its native habitat, young cottonwoods are browsed by deer, smaller trees are used by beavers as food and for dam construction, and large trees are used as nesting sites for bald eagles and other large raptors and also sometimes for nursery colonies by the Indiana bat.
Did you know?
• The cottony fluff that gives cottonwoods their name is produced on each seed and allows the seeds to drift for very long distances in the wind.
• Cottonwood is one of the few dioecious tree species in our area, which means that it has separate male and female trees. Only female trees produce the fruits with fluffy seeds.
• The leaves of cottonwood have petioles (leaf stalks) that are flattened at a 90-degree angle to the leaf blade, which allows leaves to flutter in the wind, a characteristic also found in other members of the Populus genus, like aspens.
Benefits to Our Community (based on carbon dioxide sequestered, storm water runoff avoided, and air pollution removed each year):
Over the next 15 years, this tree will give back $5,055 worth of benefits to our community.