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Black Cottonwood

Populus balsamifera

Black Cottonwood

APPEARANCE

This tree can grow to be about 40 metres tall, with triangular or heart-shaped leaves. The trunk becomes grey and has deep grooves when it gets older. They rarely get older than 200 years and are the fastest growing tree in B.C. (up to two metres per year).

RANGE & HABITAT

Black cottonwoods are common in wet areas, usually at low elevations. However, they will sometimes grows in wet subalpine areas. They don’t like shade but are able to survive flooding and frost.

LIFE CYCLE

The bead-like fruit is smooth and green. It splits into three parts, releasing fluffy white seeds that float through the air and look like cotton.

ANIMAL USES

Black cottonwood trees are important for stream habitats. They stabilize river banks and provide shade. The leaves are a food source for insects in the water, the insects are then eaten by salmon and trout. Twigs and buds are food for deer, moose, and elk. Beavers eat the bark and use stems for dams and woodpeckers nest in old trees.

TRADITIONAL FIRST NATIONS USES

Fluffy seeds were used as a stuffing for pillows and inner bark was used to make soap and tea. Sticky buds were used as an ointment and for glue. Large trees were used to make dugout canoes.

MODERN USES

The pulp of black cottonwood trees is used for books and magazines. The light-colored wood is also useful for making boxes and furniture.

STATUS

COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow

MORE INFORMATION

www.bcadventure.com

Photo: Nancy Turner