COTTONWOOD
File Size: 131 KB
 
Populus deltoides  W. Bartram ex  Marsh.  subsp. monilifera  (Aiton ) Eckenwalder
Geary County, Kansas
Height: 65-130 feet
Family: Salicaceae - Willow Family
Flowering Period:   April
Also Called: Plains cottonwood.
Trunks: Single-stemmed, 3-6+ feet in diameter, divides into large branches near base; broad, rounded crown; young stems smooth, yellow-green; mature bark ashy gray, deeply straight-furrowed; ridges broad, flat-topped.
Twigs: Stout, smooth, brittle, pale yellowish-green, becoming grayish; terminal bud 2/5 to 4/5 inch long, conical, brown or yellow, tip pointed; leaf scars half-round; bundle scars 3.
Leaves: Alternate, deciduous, broadly triangular, 1.6 to 5.6 inches long, .6 to 6 inches wide, thick, firm, glabrous; upper surface green, shiny; lower surface paler; margins toothed, teeth incurved; stalk slender, 1.2 to 3+ inches long; base flat or wedge-shaped to heart-shaped; tip long-tapering to point; leaves bright yellow in autumn.
Flowers: Prior to leaves; dioecious (male and female catkins on separate trees); staminate catkins 3.2 to 4.8 inches long, densely flowered, reddish; pistillate catkins to 6 to 8 inches long, few-flowered, greenish; calyx and corolla absent; stamens numerous, anthers red; ovary egg-shaped, base surrounded by cup-shaped disk; stigmas 3-4, plate-like, spreading, yellowish-green.
Fruit: May; capsules, short-stalked, initially green, later brown, in drooping catkins 3.2 to 11 inches long; seeds light brown, about 1/6 inch long, with dense tuft of long, cottony hairs.
Habitat: Stream banks, river bottoms, lake shores; moist soils, but will grow in drier situations.
Distribution: Throughout Kansas
Origin: Native
Uses: Native Americans used the buds, seeds, and inner bark for food and boiled the seeds to make a yellow dye for arrow feathers. Children would chew the fruit as gum, use the green, unopened fruit as beads, and would fashion toy tipis from the leaves. The leaves were also used by girls too make a flute-like instrument. The wood was used to make ceremonial poles and branches used as forage for horses.
Comments: The state tree of Kansas. Cottonwood is fast growing. The limbs often break in strong winds. A lumber tree with light, soft, dark-brown wood that can warp and is difficult to season. Latin deltoides, alluding to the shape of the leaves.

Cottonwood bark
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Cottonwood leaf
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Geary County, Kansas
Cottonwood leaves
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Cottonwood fruit
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Konza Prairie, Riley County, Kansas
Cottonwood pistillate catkins
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Konza Prairie, Riley County, Kansas
Cottonwood seeds
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Cottonwood fruit
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Cottonwood
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Cottonwood buds
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Konza Prairie, Riley County, Kansas
Cottonwood buds
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Konza Prairie, Riley County, Kansas