Herb: Plains Cottonwood

Latin name: Populus deltoides monilifera

Synonyms: Populus deltoides occidentalis, Populus sargentii

Family: Salicaceae (Willow Family)

Medicinal use of Plains Cottonwood:

The bark of most, if not all members of the genus contain salicin, a glycoside that probably decomposes into salicylic acid (aspirin) in the body. The bark is therefore anodyne, anti-inflammatory and febrifuge. It is used especially in treating rheumatism and fevers, and also to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps. The seed down has been used as an absorbent dressing on open sores.

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Streamsides in the eastern foothills of the Rockies.

Edible parts of Plains Cottonwood:

Inner bark. A pleasant sweet flavour. There are no more details but inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereals when making bread. Young shoots - cooked. The cottony fruit has been used by children as a chewing gum. (This almost certainly refers to the seedpods)

Other uses of the herb:

An extract of the shoots can be used as a rooting hormone for all types of cuttings. It is extracted by soaking the chopped up shoots in cold water for a day. A yellow dye is obtained from the seedpods. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaf buds. Wood - soft, rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, very resistant to abrasion. It weighs about 22lb per cubic foot and is used for posts, veneer, baskets and fuel.

Propagation of Plains Cottonwood:

Seed - must be sown as soon as it is ripe in spring. Poplar seed has an extremely short period of viability and needs to be sown within a few days of ripening. Surface sow or just lightly cover the seed in trays in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the old frame. If sufficient growth is made, it might be possible to plant them out in late summer into their permanent positions, otherwise keep them in the cold frame until the following late spring and then plant them out. Most poplar species hybridize freely with each other, so the seed may not come true unless it is collected from the wild in areas with no other poplar species growing. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, 20 - 40cm long, November/December in a sheltered outdoor bed or direct into their permanent positions. Very easy. Suckers in early spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Streamsides in the eastern foothills of the Rockies.

Known hazards of Populus deltoides monilifera:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.