Common cottonwood

August 24, 2015

Populus deltoides Marshall 

Life cycle

Fast-growing, weedy tree.

cottonwood seedling
Common cottonwood seedling. 


Alternate, simple, broadly triangular, 3 to 5 inches long with coarse, incurved-toothed margins and a smooth base. Leaves are shiny green above and have two to five prominent, finger-like glands where the long, flattened petiole attaches to the leaf. Margins are outlined by a colorless border.

cottonwood leaf
Common cottonwood leaf.


Up to 100 feet at maturity with a straight trunk and minimal branching. Bark is ash gray on mature trees and greenish yellow on young stems. Plants have the ability to form many vigorous, weedy sprouts.

cottonwood glands
Glands on upper leaf surface of common cottonwood.

Flowers and fruit

Male and female flowers are found on separate plants and are clustered in drooping, up to 4-inch-long spikes. Male flowers are reddish; female flowers are greenish. Fruit are three-to-four-valved capsules that release cottony, wind-disseminated seeds.

cottonwood tree
Common cottonwood tree.



cottonwood seeds
Mass of common cottonwood seeds.

Print a PDF of this page: Common cottonwood.

Back to identifying Christmas tree weeds.

Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at