Landowner Fact Sheets

black cottonwood Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa

Black cottonwood is the largest western hardwoods Cottonwoods belong to the poplar genus, and black cottonwood is also the biggest of the North American poplars. It is a fast growing tree, common to moist sites, useful for windbreaks and shelterbelts.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Black cottonwood's shade intolerance, fast growth, and abundant stump sprouting make the species well suited for management by short rotation clearcutting.

Grows throughout western North America, especially on moist sites along streams, on islands, and on bottomlands and benches, from sea level to 6000 feet, depending on latitude.


The tallest broad-leaved tree in the West, growing to 200 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter. Has a broad, open crown.

Timber Value
Black cottonwood is used for pulp, veneer for plywood, veneer for baskets and crates, pallets, boxes, furniture (unseen parts), fiberboard, and flakeboard.

Wildlife Value
The twigs, buds, and foliage are consumed by a variety of wildlife. Raptors and cavity nesting birds commonly use black cottonwoods.
Attracts voles, rabbits, hares, beavers, elk, deer, bald eagle, osprey, owls, pileated woodpecker

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Very intolerant of shade. Grows very rapidly and sprouts from the stump and from roots. Easily propagated from stem cuttings. Black cottonwood has been hybridized with several other cottonwoods and is grown in large plantations on short rotations as an agricultural crop, wood used for pulp and variety of minor products. Black cottonwood's fibers are short and fine; pulp is high-grade and used for book and magazine paper.

Latin Meaning
Populus: Latin name / balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa: balsam bearing

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.