From 'Important Timber Trees of the United States' by Simon B.
Eliot', published in 1912, Eliot says:
"Strictly speaking, it (cottonwood) should not be placed in
the class of important timber trees, for except as will be
noted, it is of little value for lumber alone; yet there are
some uses to which it can be profitably put, whereby it may play
an important part in the forest economy. It is a first class
wood for paper pulp, and by its rapid growth it may be made to
bring quicker returns than any other native forest tree. It can
also be made useful in protecting stream banks from erosion, as
it will thrive on ground too wet for trees that will produce
more valuable lumber and which is too wet to cultivate. It is
readily reproduced by sprouts from cut stumps and roots, and can
be propagated by cuttings set in the ground where the trees are
to stand. These features certainly warrant placing it in the
list of trees worthy of cultivation.
It must not be said, however, that it is invariably of little
value for lumber, for along the valleys of the Mississippi and
Missouri rivers the character of the wood is quite different
from that grown elsewhere, and it is there known as Yellow
Cottonwood. Lumber cut from trees grown there is reported easy
to work, can be dressed smooth, serves a fair purpose for work
that is not exposed, will take on a good finish, and is adapted
to many purposes for which Yellow Poplar is used. As there
appears to be no marked botanical difference in the trees there
and elsewhere, the difference in character of the wood is, no
doubt. Caused by difference in soil, moisture, or climate
conditions, or all of these --- features which affect all
species of trees."
Eliot goes on to describe a characteristic of cottonwood that
especially interests me: "But few of our native broadleaf
trees will grow as tall in the open."
Eliot's distinction between the characteristics of the wood of
the cottonwood in the eastern part of its range versus the
western part is very interesting. I wonder how the lumber
characteristics of other species varies in an east-west
direction. White ash comes immediately to mind.
Jun 05, 2003 14:11 PDT
Cottonwood was used in western MN during the 1800s. The
pioneers on the
prairie didn't have much choice.
Cottonwood sawtimber is still used in MN today for
crates and furniture,
especially in the core of furniture that will have a
finished layer of oak,
maple or birch. Of course it is also used for pulp and
Red oak is a bit lighter in color than white oak, and
that makes the wood
more desirable, since light colors are in fashion these
days, at least in
the Midwest. Walnut, for example, is definitely out of
vogue for flooring,
paneling and furniture, although it is still used for
objects. Also, red oak grows faster than white oak, so
it is better for
impatient foresters, and it is what's left after the
white oak is gone. In
the absence of excessive deer, red oak regenerates more
easily than white oak.
Jun 09, 2003 13:39 PDT
I had to go to Hartford today and on the
way an back observed cottonwoods near the Connecticut River. The
area between Springfield and Hartford is loaded. Just loaded. I
now have to find ways to get to them. The New England portion of
the book on cottonwoods may well be written around this corridor
of cottonwoods. Here is another tidbit on the cottonwood's value
from 'Our Native Trees' by Harriet Keeler.
"It is proving itself an admirable shade-tree for the
cities of the middle west where soft coal is burned. Its smooth
glossy leaves have just enough natural varnish about them to
keep the soot from clinging, and so they are bright and clean
and healthy when those of the elm and the maple are soiled and
choking and dying."
Keeler wrote these words in 1900. Who
among us today would think of the cottonwood's rise to glory as
a shade tree as attributable to this feature? By 1917 Julia Elen
Rogers the cottonwood was falling from grace. Roger's wrote the
following words in her classic 'TREES'.
"But the wind breaks the branches,
destroys the symmetry of the tree's head, and in a few years the
suburban community takes on a cheap and ugly look."
The cottonwoods proper place is along
the streams and in the wetlands where it forms its protective
barrier that can quickly be regenerated from when high winds
blow down limbs.