As a child I knew nothing of cottonwood trees. I didn’t recognize the triangular shape of the leaves, or the sturdiness of the trunk, or the wispy specks floating through the air. But after we married we moved into a valley that was filled with cottonwoods, and I began to look forward to the time each spring when the air would be filled with their floating cottony seeds.
I am always reminded of the old song:
I hear the cottonwoods whisp’ring above,
Ta-am-my, Ta-am-my, Tammy’s in love.
Cottonwoods really do sound like they are whispering because their shaking leaves can cause such a sound. The leaves shimmer in the sun just like poplars and aspens, to which cottonwoods are related. Cottonwoods are some of the largest trees in North America, growing up to 100 feet tall with huge trunks that can be over five feet in diameter. Pretty amazing considering that the seeds are so tiny.
These giants often grow on the edges of streams or rivers and have a very thick, cork-like bark which is often used by artists because it is soft and easy to carve. Cottonwoods are often grown for timber production near a source of water such as a river. They grow exceptionally fast, and can produce a large crop of wood in ten to thirty years. Cottonwood trees can live to be over 100 years old.
This tree reminds me of how nature is filled with fascinating plants and animals. I have learned a lot about many of these gifts through the years, and I am fortunate to live where I can see and be part of nature’s bounty every day. Yet it’s exciting to think about all the things I still don’t know about – all the wonders left to learn.