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Timely Trees: Cottonwood Trees in Colorado

Have your allergies been letting you know what trees are budding? Our favorite is probably the cottonwood trees in Colorado.

March marks the beginning of spring, but here in Colorado, we’re still dealing with sporadic weather that can sometimes delay the onstart of trees budding. But now that we’re (most likely) past those random snow storms, we’re starting to see the leaves really starting to bloom out. 

Whether you’re excited about the warmer weather or clinging onto those cooler nights, the fluctuation can cause some issues.

Warmer weather encourages new growth on the trees. But with the drops in temperatures overnight, the young buds are left exposed to weather that they’re just not strong enough to handle yet. 

And as it warms suddenly, it prompts sudden growth from trees that may not bud until a little later in the year, like ash trees. All the new growth means more pollen for our poor sinuses. And we know the cottonwood trees in Colorado aren’t exactly helping. 

Cottonwood Trees in Colorado

fuzzy cottonwood trees in colorado sun

While you may know these trees best by the pesky fuzzballs flying through the air, but cottonwood trees in Colorado are a native species that have provided and continue to provide many benefits to the ecosystem. 

These cottonwoods provide lush roosting and feeding sites for birds. Their bark, leaves, and the cotton also provide nesting materials for the birds.

Additionally, cottonwoods also provide a lush roosting spot for us humans by providing wonderful shade in their fast growth (up to six feet per year!).

And did you know? Cottonwood trees in Colorado may have weaker bark than other trees, but it contains salicin, which is a natural painkiller the Native Americans used to treat toothaches, headaches, and fevers!

Since cottonwoods tend to flourish in wetter soils, we’d be tempted to think these trees wouldn’t fare well in our arid climate. But they’re one of the fastest growing trees to spread through unplanted areas, which is great for the areas in our state that are more prone to flooding and soil erosion; they can absorb that excess rainwater and prevent it from damaging the landscape.

With the many benefits of cottonwood trees in Colorado, there is a bit of an investment necessary to properly care for them. While routine trimming is great for the health of all trees, there are some extra things to keep an eye out for if you have a cottonwood in your yard.

For instance, all types of plants are susceptible to pests, some more than others. Since a cottonwood’s tree bark is so weak, they’re more likely to attract borers and leaf beetles, especially if they’re already suffering a bit from other factors, such as fungal infections, drought, etc.

The diseases you’ll especially want to watch out for in cottonwood trees are leaf spot and cytospora. Cytospora is a form of canker, or a type of fungus, that enters the tree through injured openings in the bark. These injured openings can come from damaged limbs or those harmful borers.

Meanwhile, leaf spot can occur during periods of higher rainfall or humidity, something we saw a lot of last season with the warm weather fluctuation with the rain. You’ll be able to recognize this disease by the brown spots, complete with a yellow halo (despite not being very angelic), on the leaves.


Since the cottonwood trees in Colorado are now blooming, it might be a good idea to check on the health of yours. If you’ve noticed anything like what we’ve mentioned above, give us a call at (303) 806-877 for one of our arborists to give a free estimate on some treatment plans.

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