Kansas State Tree


Cottonwood tree

Cottonwood tree; photo by Eli Nixon on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / share alike).


Kansas designated the cottonwood as the official state tree in 1937. The cottonwoods are deciduous trees of the poplar species, distinguished by thick, deeply fissured bark and triangular to diamond-shaped leaves.

The Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) is one of the largest North American hardwood trees (growing (20-45 meters tall), although the wood is rather soft. Cottonwoods are grown for timber production along wet river banks because they are exceptionally tolerant of flooding, erosion and flood deposits filling around the trunk.

Their exceptional growth rate provides a large crop of wood within just 10-30 years. The wood is coarse and of fairly low value, used for pallet boxes, shipping crates and similar items (where a coarse, inexpensive, but strong wood is suitable). Many of the cottonwoods grown commercially are a hybrid between Eastern Cottonwood and Black Poplar.

The seeds of cottonwood trees have a cottony structure which enables them to blow long distances in the air before settling on the ground. This cotton-like fiber tends to collect everywhere when the seeds fall - massed in billowy piles on roadsides, insinuated in other plant-life and flower petals, and tickling noses.

Several butterfly and moth species feed on cottonwoods. Cottonwood bark is a favorite medium for artisans because it is soft and easy to carve. Cottonwoods are not good for wood fuel because it splits poorly, does not dry well, and rots quickly.



Cottonwood cotton on the edge of the path; photo by Rachel James on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / share alike).

Cottonwood cotton

Young cottonwood leaves; photo by Katherine Catmull on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with atttribution / share alike).

Young cottonwood leaves


Eco Diary - The Cottonwood Tree