Family: Salicaceae, willow family
Genus, species: Populus deltoides
Leaves are large, triangular in shape, hence the species name deltoides. Edge of leaf is coarsely toothed, shiny green. Petiole is often bright red. Petiole is flattened sideways so leaves are always moving even in a slight breeze.
Bark is yellowish-green and smooth on young trees, very thick and deeply furrowed on older trees.
Male and female flowers are on separate trees (dioecious), arranged in catkins, appear before leaves in spring. Male catkins are reddish-purple. Female catkins are green.
Fruit is a capsule, splits open to release numerous small seeds attached to cotton-like strands. Seeds are wind dispersed.
Cottonwood trees live along stream banks and in floodplains, often co-occur with willows.
Common Uses and Interesting Facts:
One of the unique features of cottonwoods is how their leaves move when the wind blows. The leaves are always in motion, even if there's just a slight breeze. This trait makes it easy to identify cottonwood trees.
Populus is an ancient name for "poplar," literally "the tree of the people." The species name deltoides is from the Latin for "triangular-shaped" or "deltoid."