Populus fremontii – Fremont Cottonwood

Populus fremontii - Fremont Cottonwood, Fremont's Cottonwood (leaves)

Populus fremontii - Fremont Cottonwood, Fremont's Cottonwood (large trunk with 6 foot 2 inch (188 cm) tall man)

Populus fremontii - Fremont Cottonwood, Fremont's Cottonwood

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Populus fremontii

Common Names: Fremont Cottonwood, Fremont's Cottonwood

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial, Deciduous

Growth Habit: Tree

Arizona Native Status: Native

Habitat: Desert, Upland, Riparian. This large, deep-rooted tree grows in washes, canyons, and bottomlands with surface or at least subsurface water.

Flower Color: Inconspicuous (green, yellow)

Flowering Season: Spring

Height: Up to 100 feet (30 m) tall

Description: The trees are dioecious, so the male and female flowers are on different plants. The inflorescences are slender, dangling catkins with small flowers. The female flowers are followed by seed capsules containing fluffy seeds. The seeds are tufted with long, white, cottony hair and are dispersed by the wind. The leaves are simple, alternate, petiolate, bright green, up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide, and triangular-ovate in shape with coarsely toothed margins. The leaves turn bright golden yellow in the fall. The bark is tan to grayish tan in color and has deep vertical furrows. These trees can grow to be very large, with trunks reaching or even exceeding 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter.

The other Populus species found in southeastern Arizona are quite different from this species. Narrowleaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia) has narrower, lance-shaped leaves, while Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) grows at higher elevations, forms colonies, and has a slender growth form.

Special Characteristics

Allergenic – The pollen is a moderate allergen.

Culturally Significant Plant – Native Americans used the sap and inner bark for food, the twigs and roots for basketry, and the leaf buds and bark for medicinal purposes. This plant contains salicin and populin, which are precursors of aspirin.

Edible – The sweet, gummy, starchy sap and the soft, bitter inner bark are edible either raw or cooked.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Dilleniidae
Order: Salicales
Family: Salicaceae – Willow family
Genus: Populus L. – cottonwood
Species: Populus fremontii S. Watson – Fremont cottonwood

More About This Plant

Arizona County Distribution Map