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Populus fremontii (Fremont cottonwood)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Populus fremontii

Populus fremontii S. Watson

Fremont Cottonwood, Western Cottonwood, Gila Cottonwood, Alamo

Salicaceae (Willow Family)


USDA Symbol: pofr2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A fast-growing riparian tree, Fremontís cottonwood has been known to grow 30 ft. in one year. Its ultimate height is up to 90 ft. Tree with broad, flattened, open crown of large, widely spreading branches. The crown is broad and open with stout branches. Bark is whitish and roughly cracked. The triangular, deciduous leaves are bright green turning yellow in fall.

This species, including varieties, is the common cottonwood at low altitudes along the Rio Grande and Colorado River and in the rest of the Southwest, as well as in California. Fremont Cottonwood grows only on wet soil and is an indicator of permanent water and shade. Easily propagated from cuttings, it is extensively planted in its range along irrigation ditches, and although it grows rapidly, it is short-lived. To this day, Hopi Indians of the Southwest carve cottonwood roots into kachina dolls, the representations of supernatural beings, that have become valuable collectors' items. Horses gnaw the sweetish bark of this species; beavers also feed on the bark and build dams with the branches. Greenish clumps of parasitic mistletoes are often scattered on the branches. Fremont Cottonwood is named for its discoverer, General John Charles Fremont (1813-90), politician, soldier, and explorer.


From the Image Gallery

5 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 90 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Feb , Mar , Apr , May


USA: AZ , CA , CO , NM , NV , TX , UT
Native Distribution: S. CA & w. NV, e. to Trans-Pecos, TX; also n.w. Mex.
Native Habitat: Stream banks & moist places below 6500 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist soils.
Conditions Comments: A fast-growing tree. The plants are either male or female. To avoid cotton fluff in the spring, plant the male.


Description: Cottonwoods can be propagated by fresh 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 Treatment: No treatment is necessary.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.


Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

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


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

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