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Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa (Black cottonwood)
Beckers, Eric

Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa

Populus balsamifera L. ssp. trichocarpa (Torr. & A. Gray ex Hook.) Brayshaw

Black Cottonwood

Salicaceae (Willow Family)

Synonym(s): Populus balsamifera var. californica, Populus hastata, Populus trichocarpa, Populus trichocarpa ssp. hastata, Populus trichocarpa var. cupulata, Populus trichocarpa var. hastata, Populus trichocarpa var. ingrata

USDA Symbol: pobat

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

A variable deciduous tree that grows quickly to 100 ft. and can reach a mature height of 200+ ft. The crown is broad and open and the grayish bark becomes furrowed with age. The dark-green leaves shimmer in the breezes and contrast nicely with the light-gray bark.

Black Cottonwood, formerly considered the species Populus trichocarpa but now designated a subspecies of Balsam Poplar, is the tallest native western hardwood. The current champion in Yamhill County, Oregon, measures 147' (44.8 m) in height, 30.2' (9.2 m) in trunk circumference, and 97' (29.6 m) in crown spread. The wood is used for boxes and crates, pulpwood, and excelsior. Black Cottonwood intergrades with its northern relative Balsam Poplar where both meet in southern Alaska and elsewhere.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 200 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr


USA: AK , CA , ID , MT , ND , NV , OR , UT , WA , WY
Canada: AB , BC , YT
Native Distribution: AK to Baja CA, e. to s.w. Alt. & w. UT
Native Habitat: Stream banks & a variety of other moist sites below 9000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Seems to have two distinct forms – one coastal and one inland. A very large, fast-growing, sometimes invasive tree that is best used for reclamation projects and periodically flooded sites.


Use Wildlife: Bees collect sticky resin on buds for their hives and seal intruders in the resin to prevent decay amd protect the hive.
Use Other: Good for stabilizing stream banks.
Fragrant Foliage: yes


Description: Cottonwoods can be propagated by seeds, cuttings or layering. Fresh seed is viable only a few days. Seeds should not be covered and seedbed should be kept saturated the first month.
Seed Collection: Seed viability is short unless stored under cold, dry conditions.
Seed Treatment: No treatment is necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa


Record Modified: 2023-05-16
Research By: TWC Staff

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