About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Floating cottonwood seeds gather

I like my flowers but it looks like I’m a crazy gardener that’s packing them all lovingly in cotton. In between constant rain showers, floating cottonwood seeds are gathering all over. The Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) can be either male or female. It is the fluffy white seeds produced by the females during early summer that give the tree its name.

The seeds are only a couple millimeters long, which is quite remarkable considering that they can become one of the largest trees in North America, up to 100 ft. high with massive trunks over 5 ft. in diameter.

But before we curse all cottonwoods for covering gardens and screens, let’s look at their benefits. Eastern Cottonwoods are important to many species. The fluff makes a good nest lining and the tree itself provides potential nesting habitat for many birds, including the Pileated Woodpecker (in tree cavities), Baltimore Oriole, Warbling Vireo, Northern Parula, and Yellow Warbler (in young trees).

Some birds also eat the buds and catkins on the tree during the spring as well as feast on all the insects that feed on the tree. Many caterpillars use Eastern Cottonwood as a food source to develop into beautiful butterflies and moths. White-Tailed Deer browse on twigs and foliage of this tree, as does the Cottontail Rabbit when seedlings are within reach. Squirrels sometimes eat the buds during the spring. Beavers use small trees as a source of food and as construction material for their dens and dams.

Finally, although messy, you have to admit the seeds are pretty as they parachute down in the wind.

Related articles:
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- There are Ducks Nesting in My Tree! http://goo.gl/wE13hE
- Let's all share Nature's bounty http://bit.ly/syPNzh
- Maple seeds dropping http://goo.gl/lMY2PM