This is a large, fast-growing tree found growing along streams, rivers and lowland areas. It is what is known as a “classic floodplains tree.” I have one growing next to the creek in my backyard.
The genus of its Latin name, Populus deltoides indicates that it is a type of Poplar Tree. The species, deltoides, refers to its triangle-shaped leaves.
Eastern Cottonwood is almost as massive as a Sycamore in regard to its trunk and broad-spreading canopy. It commonly reaches 80 feet tall by 60 feet wide, but can be much larger.
The flat leaf stems cause its leaves flutter in the slightest breeze, often looking like a hand waving back and forth, as do the leaves of most Poplars.
In late Spring and early Summer, I get “snow in June” when the fruit capsules open to release their small seeds attached to many cotton-like strands. It is the continuous release of these fluffy seeds for 2-3 weeks that results in the tree’s common name.
These trees develop very deep fissures in their bark. Mature Eastern Cottonwood bark is among the thickest of all trees in North America.
Eastern Cottonwoods have many unique characteristics that make them worth checking out.