The eastern cottonwood is a large tree that is characteristically found in floodplains, known for colonizing open areas. It does not tolerate cold temperatures and is not commonly found in Northern Michigan unless in areas where temperatures are more regulated by Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
The leaves of the eastern cottonwood are broad and slightly triangular in shape. The entire base of the leaves is coarsely toothed with 20-25 rounded teeth per side. The upper sides of the leaves are a dark green and the undersides are a bit paler. The leaves turn yellow in the fall.
The bark on mature cottonwoods has extremely thick, flat-topped furrowed ridges. It is an ashy gray color and, compared to some Michigan species, is easier to identify due to its blocky bark.
The cottonwood has caterpillar-like flowers, called catkins, which are wind pollinated. Their fruit is carried within the catkins, and the seeds are a white to light brown tuft of hairs, hence the “cotton” in the common name.
Department of Natural Resources