Poplar trees, also known as cottonwood trees, come in a variety of types. At least two kinds of poplar trees are used for landscapes and windbreaks. Most poplar trees are found near a water source, as they are water-loving. Poplar trees are known for their flowers which, when in bloom, can resemble strings of cotton hanging from the limbs. This is how some poplar trees gained the name "cottonwood." Poplar trees have characteristically large leaves with long stems. These trees also grow very rapidly.
Find this kind of poplar tree in the well-drained soil of forest coves and the lower slopes of mountain ranges. This poplar tree grows to 90 feet tall and can have a width of 40 feet when fully grown. Identify the leaves by their light green color in summer and bright yellow in autumn. The flowers are tulip-shaped, in a green-yellow color with an orange base, and measure up to 2 inches wide.
Identify this kind of poplar tree by its upward sloped branches in a column or pyramid outline. This poplar has no fall colors. Look for growth of up to six feet per year until it reaches 35 feet tall and 10 feet in width when fully grown. Find this kind of poplar tree in the south throughout USDA zones 3 to 9; it has dark green leaves with flowers in green and red colors.
Look for this kind of poplar tree in the northern states and Canada. Identify the tree by the buds, which are fragrant and sticky. These buds were used by American Indians to make ointments or salves for medical issues such as nasal congestion.
This kind of poplar tree is common in the eastern portion of the United States. This cottonwood is often found near running water such as rivers and streams. Identification is made by its height--up to 100 feet-- and trunk diameter of up to four feet.
This kind of poplar tree is also known as swamp poplar or black cottonwood. Find this kind of poplar tree in the coastal region from Connecticut through Georgia. It also grows along the Mississippi Valley from southeastern Missouri to southern Michigan. Look for it in swamp areas where other poplars cannot grow because it is too wet.