plains cottonwood

(Populus deltoides ssp. molinifera)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

plains cottonwood

NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Wetland
Indicator
Status

Great Plains

FAC - Facultative

Midwest

FAC - Facultative

Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative

Nativity

Native

Occurrence

Common

Habitat

Floodplains, along streams and lake shores. Full sun.

Flowering

March to May

     
Flower Color

Reddish or greenish-yellow

     
Height

60 to 80

     

Identification

This deciduous hardwood tree is the most massive tree in Minnesota. Mature trees in the state are usually 60 to 80 tall and up to 36 in diameter at breast height. Large individuals can reach over 130 in height. It is fast growing, in fact the fastest growing tree in North America, growing 6 to 12 per year under favorable conditions. It is short lived, commonly lasting only 50 years. In favorable conditions it may last 80 to 90 years. Older individuals can survive up to 200 years. It rises on a single stem from a shallow, wide-spreading root system. It rarely produces suckers.

In the open the trunk is short and massive. It often splits near the ground into a two or more widely-spreading stems, creating an open, broad, irregular crown. In a forest the trunk is long and straight and the crown is small and rounded.

The bark on young trees is smooth and yellowish-gray. As it ages it becomes thick, ashy gray to brown, and deeply furrowed, with whitish troughs and long, angular ridges.

The twigs are stout, smooth, hairless and light yellow or yellowish-brown with pale dots (lenticels). They are angular in cross section with narrow ridges extending down from each side of the bud.

Terminal buds are yellowish-brown, hairless, and sticky (resinous). They are to ¾ long, slender, and 3-sided. They are widest at the middle, tapering slightly to the base and tapering to a long point at the tip. They are not aromatic. Lateral buds are similar but smaller, and diverge from the twig. The leaf scars are large, triangular, and 3-lobed, with 3 large bundle scars and eyelash-like hairs where the bud meets the scar.

The leaves are deciduous, alternate, thick, firm, and not lobed or divided (simple). They are triangle-shaped, 2 to 4 long and 2¼ to 4 wide. They hang downward on yellowish, flattened, 1½ to 3 long leaf stalks. The blades taper at the tip to a long point with concave sides along the tip. They are straight across (truncate) or almost straight across at the base. The upper surface is bright green, shiny or waxy, and hairless. The lower surface is similar but slightly paler green. The margins are coarsely toothed with 5 to 15 teeth per side. The teeth are rounded, forward pointing, and distinctly curved. There are no teeth along the tip or near the leaf stalk. There are usually 1 or 2 warty glands where the leaf blade attaches to the stalk. In autumn the leaves turn yellow to yellowish-orange. Leaves on suckers are similar but often larger.

Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. They appear before the leaves in early April to early May. Both male and female flowers are borne in crowded, pendulous, short-stalked or almost stalkless catkins on 2nd year branchlets. Male catkins are 2 to 4¾ long, stout, reddish, and densely flowered. Female catkins are 2 to 4¾ long, slender, greenish-yellow, and few-flowered. Female catkins elongate when fruiting, becoming 3½ to 6¾ long.

The fruit is an egg-shaped, ¼ to 7 16 long, 3- or 4-valved capsule. Each capsule contains numerous seeds. The seeds are released late mid-May to early mid-June. They have cottony hairs attached and are dispersed by wind.

 
Similar
Species

Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. deltoides) leaves have 20 to 25 teeth per side and 3 to 5 basal glands. It does not occur in Minnesota.

 
Pests and Diseases

Pemphigus populicaulis is an aphid that causes a gall at the junction of leaf blade and petiole. The opening in the gall is a slit running parallel to the direction of the petiole.

Poplar petiolegall aphid (Pemphigus populitransversus) is an aphid that forms a gall near the middle of a leaf petiole. The opening in the gall is a slanted, sideways slit.


Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28.

Record

The champion plains cottonwood in Minnesota is on state property in or near Watson, in Chippewa County. In 2001 it was measured at 106 tall and 394 in circumference (125½ in diameter).

 
Comments

 


Taxonomy

Family:

Salicaceae (willow)

 

Tribe:

Saliceae

 

Genus:

Populus (cottonwood)

 

Section:

Aigeiros (cottonwood)

 
Synonyms

Monilistus monilifera

Populus besseyana

Populus deltoides var. occidentalis

Populus monilifera

Populus occidentalis

Populus sargentii

Populus sargentii var. texana

Populus texana

 
Common
Names

plains cottonwood

plains poplar

river cottonwood

Texas cottonwood

western cottonwood


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

catkin

A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.

 

lenticel

A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.

 

simple leaf

A leaf that is not divided into leaflets, though it may be deeply lobed or cleft.

       

Visitor Photos

   
Share your photo of this plant.

Randy


Enormous plains cottonwood just beginning to turn

  plains cottonwood    
       

Cluster of towering cottonwoods in Albert Lea

  plains cottonwood    
       

Cottonwood releasing seed

  plains cottonwood    

       
       
       

MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos

   

Tree

  plains cottonwood    
       

Female Inflorescence

  plains cottonwood    
       
       

 

Camera

     

Slideshows

   
  Populus deltoides
Blake C. Willson
 
  Populus deltoides  
     
  Populus deltoides
Matt Lavin
 
  Populus deltoides  
 
About

Native tree 20-30 m tall, petiole laterally flattened and the broad leaf blade usually with a truncate or cordate base, along riparian corridors throughout much of Montana at lower elevations. A related species you should know includes the Lombardy or Italian poplar, Populus nigra, an introduced tree with leaves similar to those of Populus deltoides (e.g., laterally flattened petiole) but with distinctly ascending branches resulting in a columnar canopy and with leaves that are more triangular in shape usually without the hastate or truncate base.

 
     
  American Cottonwood
Andree Reno Sanborn
 
  American Cottonwood  
 
About

Populus deltoides

 
     

 

slideshow

     

Visitor Videos

   
Share your video of this plant.

     
     

Other Videos

 
  Trees with Don Leopold - eastern cottonwood
ESFNature
 
   
 
About

Published on Dec 18, 2013

Don Leopold demonstrates the characteristics of eastern cottonwood.

Content produced by Christopher Baycura for the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF).

 
     
  Eastern Cottonwood Tree Identification
MiWilderness
 
   
 
About

Published on Mar 27, 2012

More tree videos: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL69BBBB171107F34B

Eastern cottonwood is a tree with many uses. The bark is good for carving floats and bobbers for fishing. The edible late winter buds are good medicine for colds, pain, fever, sprains and the like, balm of gilead. The dry inner bark fibers make excellent tinder for fire prep.

 
     
  Seeding Cottonwood Tree (Populus deltoides) - Toronto
stryker48
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Jun 26, 2009

Our neighbors huge Cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides) one of North Americas largest tree, seeds every year and for 2 to 3 weeks in the summer the fluffy white seeds are released, precipitated by the wind which looks like summer snow. After that, the messy husks follow.

All trees are beautiful, however this ones makes a continual mess for months with seeds and then the damn husks. Give me a maple tree any day!

Filmed on June 26th. midday 2009 using my Canon Powershot E5 digital camera.

 
     
  Cottonwood Tree ID
PathfinderPotter
 
   
 
About

Published on Apr 9, 2012

Hopefully this will help someone identufy a cottonwood tree.

 
     
  Eastern Cottonwood Seeds (Salicaceae: Populus deltoides) Drift like Snow
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 1, 2012

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (31 May 2012).

 
     

 

Camcorder

         

Visitor Sightings

   
Share your sighting of this plant.

Cheri
6/11/2017

Location: Lake Sylvia boat landing, North of Melrose

Awesome tree near the lake. Other giants of different species in nearby woods.


Randy
October 2016

Location: Freeborn County, MN

Enormous plains cottonwood just beginning to turn

plains cottonwood


Randy
7/19/2016

Location: Albert Lea, MN

Cluster of towering cottonwoods in Albert Lea

plains cottonwood


Randy
7/19/2016

Cottonwood releasing seed

plains cottonwood


     
     
 

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