Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Eastern Cottonwood

Eastern Cottonwood
Populus deltoides
Cottonwoods are one of the great trees of Indiana, large and powerful and impressive.  Raining down their cottony covered seeds, they could repopulate the world in a matter of years if not for competition from other plants.  According to the Indiana Big Tree Register, the largest Cottonwood tree in the state is in Evansville and measures 234 inches in circumference at the standard height of 4.5 feet.  This translates to 19.5 feet around or 6 feet in diameter!

As a youngster, I can recall climbing high up a young cottonwood tree, its branches spaced regularly up the trunk, like a ladder to the sky.  I did notice as I grew older and the tree grew older, that the lower branches started to get brittle and fall off.  Luckily I was never on one when it did.

The seed fall can be quite impressive some years, such as this this year, when it looks like snow coming down and it piles up in drifts of cottony seeds that look like snow drifts.  The "cotton" gets into everything, making a bit of a mess to clean up at times.

In some parts, particularly out west, people purposely plant Cottonwood trees.  That's hard to imagine in Indiana where they freely populate on their own and often need to be cleared away from barns and outbuildings lest their brittle branches land on the roof.

The bark of older trees is thick and deeply furrowed
The leaves are similar to other Populus species; Aspens and Poplars.

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