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.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What is that cotton in the air?

What do you think of when I say "Summer"? Do you think no school, popsicles on the back porch, running around barefoot in the grass, and picking flowers? I do and I always think of floating cottonwood seeds as the first sign of summer in mid-Michigan.

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. (Cotton for clothing comes from the fiber that grows around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium, not the cottonwood tree.)

Eastern CottonwoodImage via Wikipedia
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.

Eastern cottonwoods typically live 70 to 100 years, but they have the potential to live 200 to 400 years in the right environment. Currently, a tree in Balmville, New York is the oldest recorded eastern cottonwood in the United States.

According to Wikipedia: “Local folklore has it that the tree grew when George Washington planted his walking stick while he and the Continental Army were encamped in nearby Newburgh during the final years of the Revolutionary War, but core samples of the tree have dated its growth to 1699, well before American independence."

I hope everyone can get outside and enjoy. Summertime is an exciting time in the bird world with lots of bright colors, frantic activity, and new faces to watch. Have a great day!
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