TREES & plants

Eastern cottonwood

Eastern cottonwood is a large, fast-growing tree found growing along streams, rivers, and lowland areas. It is native to eastern North America through the Midwest and Chicago region. Due to its large size, weak wood, and penetrating roots, it is best used on large properties away from residential areas.

Botanical name: 
Populus deltoides
All Common Names: 
eastern cottonwood, eastern poplar
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Shade
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
75-100 feet
Mature Width: 
50-75 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Wet soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Highly susceptible to ice damage
  • Roots prone to invading sewer pipes
  • Weak wood and branch structure
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Red
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Pyramidal
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Mammals
  • Sapsuckers
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Size & Form

A large deciduous tree growing 50 to 80 feet high and wide in landscape situations. In the wild it can reach over 100 feet.
Young trees are pyramidal in habit changing to broadly vase-shaped with age.

Tree & Plant Care

Transplant easily, prefers wet soils in full sun, soil pH adaptable. 
Salt and drought tolerant, 
Extremely fast growing making it weak-wooded and brittle.
Produces suckers and agressive roots.

Disease, pests, and problems

Roots are shallow-roted and can invade septic and sewer systems.
The female trees can be messy, producing large quantities of seeds with white ‘fluff’ attached.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Susceptible to a wide range of diseases including dieback, cankers, leaf spots, rusts and powdery mildew. 
Insect include borers, aphids, caterpillars and scale.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 2
Native to eastern North America through the Midwest and the Chicago Region, growing along streams, rivers, and lowland areas. 

Bark color and texture 

Mature trees produce an ash- gray, blocky, thick bark with deep furrows and ridges.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate leaf arrangement.
The 2 to 5 inch long, simple triangle-shaped deciduous leaves have a toothed margin, lobed with undulate leaf margin with a elongated tip. The leaf periole is 3 to 4 inches long and flatted.
Leaf buds are large, 1-inch long, reddish green and pointed.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Dioecious , male trees have dangling reddish catkins beofre leaves appear. Female flowers are yellow.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit is a dangling cluster of dehiscent capsules in May and June. Each capsule  produce a fluff, cottony mass to aid in wind dispersal.