Populus deltoides

Eastern Cottonwood

Botanical description: Eastern cottonwood, Populus deltoides, is a fast growing colonizer of disturbed places; it is one of the first plants to appear, taking the place of grey birch and red cedar in more suburban areas. Cottonwood prefers the full sun of bare ground and can be found in wet as well as dry places. Populus deltoides proclaims its proximity when in seed, as cottony tufts attached to the seeds allow them to drift away on the wind, often collecting into fluffy mounds at curb edge. In autumn, the triangular leaves are some of the last to turn, and take on a golden hue. Unlike other poplars, it does not make root suckers or necessarily grow as large monocultures, but can have multiple leads, and readily sprouts from the base if cut. Where allowed to grow, Populus deltoides will quickly reach a height of 50 feet; its smooth young bark develops deep, furrowed ridges with maturity. The tree’s fast rate of growth makes it an effective plant for carbon capture, with many applications in landscape remediation. Cottonwood bark also contains salicin, the main ingredient in aspirin, which is an anti-inflammatory.