Plant DetailShow Menu

Populus deltoides

Phonetic Spelling
POP-yoo-lus del-TOY-deez
Description

Populus deltoids, commonly called common cottonwood is a large, fast-growing tree or shrub.  Plant in the full sun, it tolerates a wide range of soil pH and can withstand occasional flooding. It can be weedy as seedlings and produce copious root sprouts. Leaves are triangular, with serrated margins and flattened petioles.  Although pyramidal in youth, this tree/shrub will have a broad vase with open branches with age.  The plant becomes ragged and irregular.  The seed capsules of the female produce silky white hairs when they split open.  The common name of cottonwood comes from the appearance of these hairs, which resemble cotton.

It is an easy to transplant, short-lived, messy tree.  Its wood is brittle, giving little value. It is harvested for the production of plywood, crates, and pulp.  It is typically found growing along streams and rivers but also naturalized areas, woodlands, lawns, or rain gardens. This plant may be used as a specimen or a shade tree. It attracts some small mammals and is resistance to erosion and wet soil.

Tree and shrub seedlings are not well managed by preemergence herbicides, and selective postemergence controls are not available. Hand pull seedlings when small.

This plant is found at fine sandy loams or silt loams, resistant to flooding and tolerant of 4.5-8.0 pH.

Insect problems include borers, aphids, caterpillars and scale. 

It has yellowish twigs, coarsely toothed leaves, and gummy end buds.  These characteristics are unique to this tree vs other varieties of poplar.

The female flowers are followed by capsules that split when ripe with seeds that disperse silky-white hairs giving the common name of Cottonwood its origin.

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Noreaster'
    Male. Defoliates early.
  • 'Purple Tower'
    Dark red to purple leaves in full sun
  • 'Siouxland'
    Male. Defoliates early
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#rain garden#drought tolerant#weed#wildlife plant#native tree#weedy#weeds#air pollution tolerant#brittle wood#erosion control#wet sites#flooding#small mammals#rapid growth rate#food source#fast growing#NC native#wind dispersed seeds#not showy#Braham Arboretum#short lifespan#wet soils#dendrology
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Noreaster'
    Male. Defoliates early.
  • 'Purple Tower'
    Dark red to purple leaves in full sun
  • 'Siouxland'
    Male. Defoliates early
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#rain garden#drought tolerant#weed#wildlife plant#native tree#weedy#weeds#air pollution tolerant#brittle wood#erosion control#wet sites#flooding#small mammals#rapid growth rate#food source#fast growing#NC native#wind dispersed seeds#not showy#Braham Arboretum#short lifespan#wet soils#dendrology
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Populus
    Species:
    deltoides
    Family:
    Salicaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Timber, pulp.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern and central U.S.A., NC
    Distribution:
    Eastern and Midwest United States, Europe, South Africa, South America
    Wildlife Value:
    Seedlings and young trees browsed by rabbits, deer, and domestic stock.; beavers use saplings and poles for food and dam construction.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 80 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 50 ft. 0 in. - 75 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Weed
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Broad
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    White
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is an elongated capsule with 3-4 valves and seeds surrounded by cotton-like hairs that facilitate wind and water dispersal.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Species is dioecious; males occur in 1 inch long catkins, females occur in a sparse yellow-flowered catkin. Male flowers are reddish and non-showy. Female flowers are green.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Deltoid
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Broadly triangular, ovate in outline, 3-5 inches long, dark green and lustrous but paler and smoother beneath, marginal teeth that are somewhat hooked.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Green
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Smooth
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Round
    Bark Description:
    Smooth and greenish-gray bark when young becoming ashy-gray and roughened by long, deep, longitudinal and interconnecting furrows, twigs are stout, rounded, and enlarged at the nodes.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The yellowish twigs, coarsely toothed leaves, and gummy end buds distinguish this tree from other poplars.
  • Landscape:
    Problems:
    Messy
    Short-lived
    Weedy