Landowner Fact Sheets

eastern cottonwood Populus deltoides

Cottonwood is a fast growing but relatively short-lived species found along waterways and bottomlands. Two varieties are recognized: eastern cottonwood and plains cottonwood. Both varieties are valued for their ability to rapidly provide shelter from wind and sun, and material for wood and pulp products.

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

Very intolerant of shade, cottonwood must be regenerated by clearcut or seed-tree methods. Cottonwood is very well adapted to plantation management.

Cottonwood is most commonly found on alluvial soils but may seed into old fields in the South.


A large tree with a clear bole and an open spreading crown resulting in a somewhat vase-shaped form.

Timber Value
Cottonwood is used for lumber, veneer, plywood, excelsior, fiberboard, paper pulp, pulpwood, pallets, crates, furniture.

Wildlife Value
Since cottonwood grows commonly along riparian areas, its importance to wildlife, especially on the Plains, is large. Many species use cottonwoods as habitat and browse material.
Attracts mice, rabbits, deer, turkeys, northern bobwhite, grouse, hawks, eagles, and many other birds.

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Cottonwood is short-lived, but can develop into a massive tree. The growth of cottonwood is very rapid. Plains cottonwood is often the only tree to be found on the Plains. It often signifies the presence of water and offers protection from the relentless sun.

Latin Meaning
Populus: Latin name / deltoides: triangular (leaf)

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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.