Skip navigation
6049 Views 3 Replies Last post: Jul 8, 2013 5:36 AM by MikeHardman RSS
Currently Being Moderated

Jul 4, 2013 9:41 PM

Identification of "Cotton Tree?"

Hello All,


Our local park seems to have a number of interesting non-native tree species planted I believe in the 1930s. I am starting to identify as many as I can, but am stumped(!) by this one.  I dub it a "Cotton Tree" as it's seed pods are currently opening up and letting cotton-like coated seeds loose into the wind.


Any thoughts on this and also where I could find some resources and keys to help with identifying non-native species?


Thanks in advance.


AJ (1) - Copy.JPGAJ (2) - Copy.JPG

  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 5, 2013 6:57 AM (in response to StephenE)
    Re: Identification of "Cotton Tree?"



    This is probably black cottonwood, Populus trichocarpa.


    You might check the leaves to confirm it is not P. deltoides, by reference to this photo


    P. deltoides is a N. American species, but it had been hybridized with P. trichocarpa, and those hybrids can be found in parks and gardens. So there's a chance your tree may be one of those hybrids. - hence my qualifying my ID above with 'probably'.


    This illustration shows the leaves and the 'cotton'


    It also gives a route into some ID keys for N. America (the 'Online Edition' panel on the left).


    The NHM has a tree ID key online as part of its urban tree survey (which obviously includes non-native trees)


    There will always be particular unusual trees that don't 'key-out', whatever online key you use. There are three main reasons for that:

    - it is a hybrid (characters intermediate between its parents)

    - it is a cultivar (perhaps a hybrid, but could also have arisen as a 'branch sport' or chance seedling)

    - it is a species, but an unusual one

    In such cases, be prepared to research using other resources - elsewhere on the internet and in books. The online keys should, hopefully, get you as far as family, if not genus.

    Some parks have recorded history, which may include planting plans, including dates and species. You may have to ask in local council offices or town/county library to find documentation.

    And you can always come back here and tell us 'I'm stumped...'.


    Much of my interest in trees began when I was at Uni. I would walk our lovely German shepherd, Etzel, in Sefton Park, near where I lived in Liverpool. After doing the same routes enough times, I inadvertently began paying more attention to the trees, and was suprised to find how many I could not actually name. Trees in other parks took my interest similarly. Some of the trees turned out to be common species (from various parts of the world) that I simply had not come across before, such as Acer griseum and Morus nigra. Others were, and still are, more unusual, such as Acer monspessulanum. In those days, there was no internet to help with indentification; I bought and used books, many of which I still use today.

    I hope your interest with trees flourishes, as did mine.



    • Report Abuse
    • Currently Being Moderated
      Jul 8, 2013 5:36 AM (in response to StephenE)
      Re: Identification of "Cotton Tree?"

      Jolly good Stephen.


      A similar surreal experience I had was one day when there was just enough (but not too much) breeze to lift the down from the fields full of thistles near where I lived on the Surrey-Hampshire border. I looked out of my window and saw the air filled with these fluffy white 'snowflakes', just gently drifting by. The 'snow' and the uniformity of its motion was bizarre. It was almost as if they were just floating in-place and I was in a railway carriage (say) slowly passing them.



      • Report Abuse

More Like This

  • Retrieving data ...

Bookmarked by (0)

What the symbols mean

  • "correct" answer available
  • "helpful" answer