Leaves: Simple, alternate, blades up to 5 inches long, and nearly as broad, triangular, abruptly pointed at the tip, cut straight across the top or even slightly heart shaped at the base, with coarse rounded teeth along the edges, green, smooth and shiny on upper surface, paler on the lower surface; leafstalks to 4” long, smooth, often yellow, flat.
Buds: Lance-shaped, long-pointed, up to ½ inch long, sticky, chestnut colored.
Bark: Smooth and grey when young, becoming furrowed at maturity.
Twigs: Yellow-green, gray, or tan, smooth, moderately stout, with numerous pale “dots”; leaf scars alternate, triangular, with 3 large bundle traces.
Flowers: Staminate and pistillate borne on separate trees, the staminate crowded in rather thick, reddish catkins, the pistillate crowded in narrower greenish-yellow catkins, both sexes appearing before the leaves begin to unfold.
Fruits: Elliptic, greenish-brown capsules up to ¼ inch long, grouped in elongated clusters, containing numerous seeds with cottony hairs attached.
Wood: Light weight, soft, readily warping.
Uses: Pulpwood, fuel.
Habitat: Bottomland woods along streams.
Growth Form: Large, rapidly growing tree, reaching heights of up to 100 feet. Its trunk is straight, trunk diameter up to eight feet, crown spreading or broadly rounded with drooping branches.
Distinguishing Feature: The Cottonwood is easily recognizable by its triangular leaves with flattened leafstalks. The cottony seeds, when fruits are mature, are also distinctive.