Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pacific Northwest Plants: Cottonwood Trees

Cottonwood Trees

Full grown Cottonwood Tree
For a week now in Bellingham there have been puffy white seeds floating everywhere from the Cottonwood Trees.

Cottonwoods are a type of poplar, with the same quivering leaves. They grow in moist areas, so the wetlands behind our Bellingham condo is a prime spot.

Male and female flowers are in separate catkins (long, slim clusters) that appear before the leaves each spring.

The female catkin produces the cottony seeds that are blown long distances. It's these fluffy white masses that give the tree its name.

Each spring the white fluff flies through the air creating the plant version of a snow storm.

The seeds are very small (1X4 mm) which is remarkable considering they can grow into one of the largest trees in North America, up to 100 feet (30+ metres) high.

Cottonwood Catkins
Not only are Cottonwoods large, but fast growing, reaching maturity in 10-30 years. Young trees can add an amazing six feet per year.

Historically, their trunks were used by Native Americans to make dugout canoes. As a commercial product, their course wood is best suited for making pulpwood in the paper industry, pallets and shipping crates.

As summer changes to fall, the leaves of turn bright yellow and orange, making a warm contrast to the cooling blue skies.

Here's one framed by a double rainbow near sunset. -- Margy


  1. There's a big cottonwood in the park where I take my grandkids to play, and they are always picking up big handfuls of the "fluff" it drops.

    1. They are kind of like giant dandelion seed heads. - Margy

  2. Lovely tree and great rainbow shot.

    1. They are pretty, but cleaning up after them can be a bit of a job. - Margy

  3. Really interesting to know more about a tree that we always considered kind of a weed - just a big one!

  4. Ha ha! I was at the grocery store and it looked like it was raining white fluffy seeds! They must be coming down here too.

    1. When the fluff flies it goes everywhere and is so hard to sweep up. Touch it with a broom and off it goes again up into the air. - Margy


Thanks for stopping by. Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. - Margy