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North American Cottonwood

Populus deltoides

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Salicaceae (Willow)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
35 metres tall
Riverbanks, woodland.

Red, no petals
Reddish-brown male hanging catkins. Female catkins are green. Wind pollinated.
The catkins develop woolly seeds which are the fruit. The seeds mature in May and June.
Triangular, bright green leaves, up to 10cm long and 11cm wide. The leaves are coarsely toothed and curved at the tip. Foliage turns yellow in autumn. The branched curve upwards into a fan-shaped crown. The bark is rough and black.
The leaves are fragrant when young.
Other Names:
Balsam Poplar, Berry-bearing Poplar, Carolina Poplar, Eastern Poplar, Necklace Poplar, Northern Cottonwood, Plains Cottonwood, Rio Grande Cottonwood.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Populus deltoides, also known as the eastern cottonwood or necklace poplar, is a species of deciduous tree in the willow family (Salicaceae). It is native to the eastern and central United States and Canada, where it grows in a variety of habitats, including floodplains, riverbanks, and other areas with moist, well-draining soil. The tree is known for its fast growth rate and large size, and it can reach heights of up to 100 feet (30 meters). It has triangular, deltoid-shaped leaves and produces small, cottony seeds that are dispersed by the wind. Populus deltoides is widely used for timber, paper production, and other purposes, and it is also an important food source for many species of wildlife.


North American Cottonwood: A Majestic Tree with a Rich History

Populus deltoides, commonly known as the North American Cottonwood, is a species of poplar native to North America. This tree is a symbol of resilience, adaptability, and growth, and has played an important role in the history and culture of the United States.

The North American Cottonwood is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 100 feet tall and have a trunk diameter of up to 6 feet. Its leaves are triangular and have a distinct, rusty-brown color on their undersides. In the spring, the tree produces small, yellowish-green flowers that are followed by cotton-like seeds in the summer.

One of the most notable characteristics of the North American Cottonwood is its fast growth rate. This tree can grow up to 6 feet per year, making it one of the fastest-growing trees in North America. This rapid growth, along with its ability to thrive in a variety of soils and climates, has made the North American Cottonwood an important species for restoration and reforestation efforts.

The North American Cottonwood has a rich history in the United States, especially in the Great Plains region. This tree was an important resource for Native American tribes, who used it for a variety of purposes, including building materials, medicine, and food. The cotton-like seeds produced by the tree were used by Native American women to stuff pillows and mattresses, and the tree's bark was used to make canoes.

During westward expansion, the North American Cottonwood was used by settlers as a marker for the frontier. The tree's fast growth and abundance made it a reliable source of timber for building homes, barns, and fences. The tree's cotton-like seeds also provided a source of food for wildlife, making it an important part of the ecosystem in the Great Plains region.

Today, the North American Cottonwood remains an important species in the United States. It is widely used as a shade tree in parks, residential areas, and along streets, and its rapid growth and adaptability make it a popular choice for reforestation and restoration projects.

The North American Cottonwood is a magnificent tree with a rich history and important role in the culture and ecosystem of the United States. Whether you are a history buff, a nature lover, or simply appreciate the beauty of trees, the North American Cottonwood is definitely worth a closer look.

The North American Cottonwood is also a popular choice for landscaping and ornamental purposes. Its large size, distinctive triangular leaves, and attractive bark make it a beautiful addition to any garden or park. Additionally, its rapid growth and ability to thrive in a variety of soils and climates make it a low-maintenance option for homeowners.

However, the North American Cottonwood does have some drawbacks. Its fast growth rate means that it often has a relatively short lifespan, typically ranging from 40 to 70 years. Additionally, the tree's large size and sprawling roots can make it difficult to plant near buildings or other structures. The tree's cotton-like seeds can also be a nuisance, as they can clog gutters, accumulate on sidewalks and driveways, and be carried by the wind to other locations.

Despite these drawbacks, the North American Cottonwood is still a valuable and beloved species in the United States. Its rich history, beauty, and ecological importance make it a tree worth preserving and appreciating.

If you are looking for a fast-growing, low-maintenance tree to add to your landscape, the North American Cottonwood is definitely worth considering. Just be prepared for its large size and potential for messiness, and you'll be able to enjoy all the benefits this magnificent tree has to offer.

Another important aspect to consider when planting the North American Cottonwood is its impact on the environment. The tree is known to release large amounts of allergens into the air, particularly in the spring when it is flowering. This can be a problem for people with allergies or asthma, and it is important to consider this before planting the tree in a residential area.

However, the North American Cottonwood also has many positive environmental benefits. The tree is a popular habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, squirrels, and rabbits, providing food and shelter for these animals. Additionally, the tree is an important source of food for beavers, who use its bark and branches for building their dams and lodges.

In conclusion, the North American Cottonwood is a tree with a rich history, unique beauty, and important ecological role in the United States. While it does have some drawbacks, such as its potential to release allergens and its large size, these are outweighed by its many benefits, including its fast growth, adaptability, and importance as a habitat for wildlife. If you are looking to add a tree to your landscape or want to contribute to reforestation efforts, the North American Cottonwood is definitely worth considering.