SPECIES ID / Riparian Plants – Tree

Black cottonwood


Populus balsamifera


Category: floodplain, pioneer
Height: 50.0 m
Moisture: wet-medium
Shade: intolerant
Beaver Protection Required: yes
Habitat Notes:

Identification Tips:

• Deciduous tree with alternate leaves
• Leaves glossy with round or heart-shaped bases, sharply pointing ends, and very small, rounded teeth on margin
• Old trees very large, with deeply furrowed, dark gray bark
• Younger mature trees have greenish smoother bark; Seedlings and saplings with greenish speckled bark
• Large resinous buds in winter and spring
• Flowers are long drooping catkins
• Wind pollinated with seeds carried on bits of cottony fluff in late spring

Restoration Notes:

• Large mature trees provide crucial habitat for nesting raptors and cavity nesting birds
• Bark, wood, leaves and resin widely used as medicine, fuel, and building material in traditional Indigenous cultures

• Fastest growing tree in Canada
• Canopy is relatively thin and does not provide dense shade
• Will tolerate extended periods of flooding
• The very first species that beaver will target

• Grows well from cuttings (we use 2 m whips)
• 'Mother' plants can be coppiced to yield many whips
• Whips very economical and also useful for bio-engineering work to stabilize slopes or create river bars, and for difficult to access sites
• Whips can be planted at any time (i.e. August drought) if base is in water table and all leaves removed