Cottonwood provides shade quickly

Tree Time, by Dave Daubert

There are some trees that people just do not like. One that comes to mind is the Cottonwood (Populus deltoides).

The main reason people object to Cottonwood trees is the fluffy seeds that blow around like cotton.

Before giving a different perspective on the Cottonwood, I need to cover two technical terms – monoecious and dioecious.

Trees and plants that have both male and female reproduction organs on the same plant are monoecious. That is, they do not require a second tree for pollination. Most trees fall into this category. Trees and plants that require a second tree or plant of the same species nearby to complete pollination are dioecious.

The most familiar dioecious trees are apples. A second apple tree has to be located nearby to produce fruit. However, it can be any tree in the Malus family, a crab apple will do to pollinate an eating apple tree. Pears, family Pyrus, do not require a second tree to produce fruit.

Back to the cottonwood, a member of the willow family. These trees are fast growing trees. The leaf has the shape of the symbol delta and thus their name. Cottonwoods can be propagated by putting a twig in moist earth. The twig can easily attain a height of 4 to 6 feet in the first season.

The Plains Indians used the root wood for starting fire by friction. Legend has the Indian discovering the design for his tepee by twisting a cottonwood leaf between his fingers, in this way producing the conical pattern.

One important use for the cottonwood is to provide shade quickly.

A homeowner wishing to have shade trees can plant cottonwood trees which will provide shade quickly and then plant more slow growing shade trees under the cottonwood. When the more desirable shade trees reach an adequate height, cut the cottonwood out.

Dave Daubert is a Carver Scott Master Gardener who specializes in trees.