Plant DetailShow Menu

Plants that fill a similar niche:
Acer saccharinum From
Ulmus americana Full Form
Salix nigra Salix nigra
Populus deltoides has some common insect problems:
Cottonwood Leaf Beetle

Cottonwood 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. This NC native plant is found at fine sandy loams or silt loams in stream banks of the piedmont and coastal plain.  It grows tall as well, averaging 80-100 ft but potentially growing as high as 200 ft.  It has yellowish twigs, coarsely toothed leaves, and gummy end buds that easily distinguish it from other species of poplar.  Although pyramidal in youth, this tree/shrub will have a broad vase with open branches with age.  The plant becomes ragged and irregular as it further grows.  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.

Plant in the full sun and moist, well-drained soil, preferably within 15-50 ft above stream level.  It tolerates a wide range of soil pH, 4.5-8.0. and can withstand occasional flooding. It is an easy-to-transplant but short-lived, messy, brittle tree. 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 resistant to erosion and wet soil. It can be weedy as seedlings and produce copious root sprouts.

Insect problems include borers, aphids, caterpillars, and scale.  Tree and shrub seedlings are not well managed by preemergence herbicides, and selective postemergence controls are not available. Hand pull seedlings when small.

Its wood is brittle, giving little value for lumber. It is harvested for the production of plywood, baskets, crates, and pulp, particularly for use in high-grade magazine paper.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Noreaster'
    Male. Defoliates early.
  • 'Purple Tower'
    Dark red to purple leaves in full sun
  • 'Siouxland'
    Male. Defoliates early
'Noreaster', 'Purple Tower', 'Siouxland'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#rain garden#drought tolerant#weed#wildlife plant#native tree#weedy#air pollution tolerant#erosion control#wet sites#flooding#small mammals#food source#fast growing#NC native#weak wood#wind dispersed seeds#not showy#Braham Arboretum#short lifespan#larval host plant#dendrology#wet soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#red-spotted purple butterfly#viceroy butterfly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Noreaster'
    Male. Defoliates early.
  • 'Purple Tower'
    Dark red to purple leaves in full sun
  • 'Siouxland'
    Male. Defoliates early
'Noreaster', 'Purple Tower', 'Siouxland'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#rain garden#drought tolerant#weed#wildlife plant#native tree#weedy#air pollution tolerant#erosion control#wet sites#flooding#small mammals#food source#fast growing#NC native#weak wood#wind dispersed seeds#not showy#Braham Arboretum#short lifespan#larval host plant#dendrology#wet soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#red-spotted purple butterfly#viceroy butterfly
  • 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:
    This is a larval host plant. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilo glaucus) has three flights from February-November in the deep south and March-September in the north. The Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) has two broods from April-October. 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
    Woody Plant 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 Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    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
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4b, 4a, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    White
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is an elongated capsule, grown in clusters, 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:
    Woody Plant 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 Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Broadly triangular, ovate in outline, 3-6 inches long and 4-5 inches wide. The surface is dark green and lustrous with a paler and smoother underside. Margins have serrated teeth that are somewhat hooked. Petioles are flat.
  • 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:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Slope/Bank
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Messy
    Short-lived
    Weak Wood
    Weedy