Populus deltoides (Eastern Cottonwood)

Easily identified as the seeds, coated in cotton-like tissues, disperse, Eastern Cottonwoods are fast growing, deciduous, and tolerant of urban pollution.  The extensive root system, prolific seed production, and easily warped/cracked bark makes these less than ideal for city planting, although they are drought tolerant. Some cultivars are only male species, eliminating the need to clean up the cotton-like seeds.

Populus deltoides (Eastern Cottonwood)
Deciduous: yes
Hardiness Zones: 2-9
Height: 15-24 meters (50-80 feet) tall, sometimes up to 40 meters (120 feet)
Diameter: 11-18 meters (35-60 feet) across
Growth Rate: fast
Age: typically 70-100 years old
Root System: extensive (does not produce clones, however)
Family: Salicaceae
Subspecies: ssp. monlifera, deltoides, wislizeni

Tolerates: drought (once established), urban pollution/poor air quality
Problems (major): Very prolific seed yields can cause allergies in those affected and frequently become bothersome in large quantities. Dieback, cankers, borers, aphids, caterpillars, and scale are all detrimental.
Problems (minor): leaf spots, rust
Poisonous: no

Soil requirements: performs best in “average”, consistently moist, well-drained soils
Air requirements: tolerates pollution
Watering requirement: moderate to high
Sun requirement: full sun

Needles: none
Cones (male): none
Cones (female): none
Leaves: triangular, toothed, dark green, to 13 centimeters (5 inches) long
Flowers: Catkins occur in March and April before the foliage. The male flowers are in inconspicuous red catkins; the female catkins are green and produce cotton-like seeds in May or July.
Fruits: cotton-like, profusely produced by older trees
Seeds require stratification: yes
Monoecious or Dioecious: dioecious

Notable characteristics:
The seeds are dispersed with cotton-like tissues attached.

The wood is useful for crates and pulp. However, it breaks and warps easily, limiting it’s uses.

Sources used:


The foliage alongside the bark


Foliage and the female catkins post pollination


More foliage and catkins

The trunk and canopy


Foliage, male catkins, and some of the cotton-like seeds

All of the images provided were taken by me. They may be used for informational/educational purposes only provided that this article/online journal is cited/referenced first.


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