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Populus deltoides (Eastern cottonwood)
Reveal, James L.

Populus deltoides

Populus deltoides W. Bartram ex Marshall

Eastern Cottonwood, Carolina Poplar, Necklace Poplar, Alamo

Salicaceae (Willow Family)


USDA Symbol: pode3

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

Eastern cottonwood is a large-canopied tree with upright limbs becoming arching at the tips creating a vase-shape outline. The deciduous tree grows to 100 ft. or more with stout branches. Catkins appear before leaf emergence. Large, papery, toothed, triangular, medium-green leaves turn yellow in fall. Large tree with a massive trunk often forked into stout branches, and broad, open crown of spreading and slightly drooping branches. Pendulous clusters of flowers without petals in late March and early April. Seeds wind-borne on a tuft of cottony hairs.

The common name refers to the abundant cottony seeds; another name, "Necklace Poplar," alludes to the resemblance of the long, narrow line of seed capsules to a string of beads. Although short-lived, it is one of the fastest-growing native trees; on favorable sites in the Mississippi Valley, trees average 5' (1.5 m) in height growth annually with as much as 13' (4 m) the first year. Plains Cottonwood (ssp. monilifera [Ait.] Eckenwalder or var. occidentalis Rydb.), a western subspecies or variety, has slightly smaller leaves that are often broader than long and more coarsely toothed.


From the Image Gallery

29 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 180 feet tall, often much shorter.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Yellow, Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: S.w. Que., c. MI, ND & s.w. Alt., s. to n.w. FL & c. TX
Native Habitat: Stream banks; rich bottomlands

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: Rapid growth, though short-lived as specimen trees. Tolerant of any (except for constantly waterlogged) soil, does best in deep, fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Take hardwood cuttings in winter. Catkins produce an abundance of (airborn) cotton in spring. Weak wood and brittle limbs create wind and ice problems for this fast grower. Susceptible to a number of cankers and borers. Female trees produce clouds of cottony seeds each spring that can be a temporary nuisance. Roots can be invasive. Adapts to a variety of soils. Tolerates saline, pollutants and a wide pH range.


Use Ornamental: Shade tree, Fall conspicuous, Fast growing, Easily grown.
Use Wildlife: Seeds-granivorous birds, Nesting material, Browse.
Use Medicinal: Bark teas given to women about to give birth, also used bark tea for heartburn and as a tonic. (Kindscher) Inner bark tea used for scurvy and as a female tonic. Bark contains aspirin-like compound. (Foster & Duke)
Use Other: One of the largest eastern hardwoods, it is used for boxes and crates, furniture, plywood, woodenware, matches and pulpwood.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Mourning Cloak, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy & Tiger Swallowtail butterfies.
Deer Resistant: High

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Mourning Cloak
(Nymphalis antiopa)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
(Limenitis archippus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Propagation Material: Semi-hardwood Cuttings
Seed Collection: Collect catkins before they open and disperse feathery seeds. Spread in thin layer to dry, then rub over screening to separate seeds. Place in cold storage, 41 degrees, immediately after air-drying.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

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

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
Stengl Biological Research Station - Smithville, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX


Bibref 610 - Edible wild plants of the prairie : an ethnobotanical guide (1987) Kindscher, K.
Bibref 417 - Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America (2000) Foster, S. & J. A. Duke
Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Populus deltoides in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Populus deltoides in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Populus deltoides


Record Modified: 2022-10-07
Research By: NPC

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