New Tree In The Yard

I’ve long known the existence of the “cottonwood” trees, Populus deltoides, but I had no idea until yesterday that I had one in my yard. You see, my yard is full of young trees. I had assumed this tree was just one of several kinds of poplars growing in the neighbourhood. A seed must have landed and germinated in my yard and I moved the young seedling into a row along the periphery, out of the way of other things I do…

The problem is that Populus deltoides, the Eastern Cottonwood, is not like the other local poplars. They remain skinny and not too tall. The Eastern Cottonwood grows quickly like other poplars but it lives to be a century old and huge. It’s not a tree to put on the property line. It doesn’t make good neighbours. On the one hand its huge branches are likely to break off and fall on the neighbour’s property in the wind and on the other, some Eastern Cottonwoods are male and some are female. The females produce an abundance of cotton strands to carry their seeds in the wind. It can be too much of a good thing. Nick a root and it will send up a “sucker”. Just mowing the lawn or raking it can encourage suckering…

What to do? I could leave the tree as is. That’s the procrastinator’s option which I often favour. I could destroy the tree. That’s not very “green” of me.  I could let it grow to a good size and convert it to lumber or mulch. It’s not the best of lumber having a rather soft wood but I could make pallets or beehives out of it. I could move it away from the property line but TLW would not approve. She hates trees that she does not buy in stores…

Most likely I will do nothing. I might make cuttings and plant them in better locations. That’s the easiest solution.

How do I know this young tree is a cottonwood? After all, we know babies all look alike… It’s in the twig. It’s in the leaves. I had noticed the leaves were rather more broad than most local poplars but these were gigantic. It just did not dawn on me that it was a cottonwood until yesterday. The trigger was my noticing the branches have prominent ridges descending from nodes on the twigs. Most poplars don’t have those ridges. The Eastern Cottonwood sometimes has them. A search of images on Google found this link. It’s pretty good confirmation that this tree is a variety of Eastern Cottonwood.

It’s rather rare in these parts, mostly growing to the south, east and west of us but it’s here. The City of Winnipeg lists only 52 of them on their property compared to 12500 poplars of all kinds.

| 7738 | Poplar species                   | Populus spp.                       |
| 4317 | trembling aspen                  | Populus tremuloides                |
|  206 | silver poplar / European white p | Populus alba                       |
|   78 | largetooth aspen                 | Populus grandidentata              |
|   74 | balsam poplar                    | Populus balamifera                 |
|   52 | Cottonwood                       | Populus deltoides                  |
|   36 | Prairie Sky poplar               | Populus x canadensis               |


UPDATE I did a walkaround today after venturing out into the cold of the morning to plant my last arborvitae. The only difference I see in this monster from descriptions of Eastern Cottonwood is that the buds are about the same size as our local poplars. Most descriptions describe 3/4 inch buds. These are about 1/4 inch and still quite tight. OTH, ISTR that this thing was just a seedling when I moved it to the side of yard. The subsequent year’s growth seems to have been two feet. Last year’s growth was six feet! It is indeed a monster. It may have crossbred with the local poplars to have smaller buds but there’s no denying the colossal growth rate. I think it is too large to dig up easily. We’ll see what happens. I’m tempted to take some cuttings to see if I can plant two close together to give the grand kids a swing in the shade.

We have to live with it.  We have to love such a vigorous tree. Anything that will grow in my yard must be respected and valued.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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