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Native American tray
MFA# 1993.723
Watercolor of cottonwoods
MFA# 50.3870
Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)


Any of several deciduous North American Poplar trees, such as Populus deltoides. Cottonwood trees grow fast and produce a fine-grain, uniform texture wood that works easily and stains well. However, the soft, pale color wood has a tendency to warp. Cottonwood is used for millwork, musical instruments, paneling, packing boxes, Paper pulp, and Excelsior.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Populus deltoides; choupo do Missuri (Port.); eastern cottonwood; necklace poplar

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Height: Large tree (20-60 m) with trunk diameter (2.8 m)
  • Bark: silvery white and smoothi with light fissures
  • Leaves large, deltoid with flattened base and elongated tip (3-12 cm) with coarse teeth. The leaves have a shiny top and darker bottom along with a flat stem that allow them to shake and shimmer in the wind.
  • Flowers: Long catkins (8-10 cm: purple:male, green:female) that produce numerous small seeds covered with a surround of cotton-like strands.
  • Density = 25-35 ppcf

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971
  • F. H. Titmuss, Commercial Timbers of the World, The Technical Press Ltd., London, 1965
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Hardwood Manufacturers Institute, Memphis Tenn.: air-dry weight = 24 pcf
  • Edward Reich, Carlton J. Siegler, Consumer Goods: How to Know and Use Them, American Book Company, New York City, 1937