October 9

Placement is Key for Cottonwood Trees


With flat leaves and twisting stems that bend and rustle at the slightest breeze, Cottonwood trees are among those musical types of trees that are native to Oregon. However, despite their charming musicality and overall beauty, the placement of these trees is crucial. The concept of “Right Tree. Right Place. Wrong Tree. Wrong Place.” rings especially true when it comes to Cottonwoods.

Consider these facts when deciding to keep or remove a Cottonwood tree:


  • Cottonwoods (specifically Oregon-native black cottonwoods) and their relatives, poplars and aspens, are fast growing. Their initial growth can exceed five feet per year and regenerate cut branches with ease. In addition, their root systems are shallow, soft, and grow quickly, with the trunk and branches being soft, as well.
  • The Cottonwood’s porous nature contributes to their weak structure, which causes their limbs to easily break. Cottonwoods thrive near riverbanks, ponds, or any spot in which water is abundant—with daily water consumption landing anywhere between 50-200 gallons!

It’s often a case of “Wrong tree. Wrong place.”

  • While Cottonwoods are aesthetically pleasing trees, their weak structure (as mentioned above) poses real risks when they’re in the wrong spot.
  • They do not fare well in thunderstorms and often break off limbs in high winds.
  • Their heavy water consumption increases the likelihood for snapping branches, especially during hot/dry seasons, as excess water causes the trunks and limbs to be unbearably weighed down.
  • It’s these unexpected falling limbs that can create dangerous and costly situations for people and property.
  • It’s not only the limbs that can cause issues. Cottonwood’s root systems, because of the speed and shallow depth at which they grow, can damage structures. Sidewalks, wells, basements, and any at- or below-surface level structure near a cottonwood could be raised or damaged by its roots.

When (and how) it might be a case of “Right tree. Right place.”

  • While Cottonwoods are often a poor tree for residential areas, cottonwoods can fit the right area. Homes with sizable yards or few power lines could sustain a cottonwood.
  • Even so, so some general rules to remember:
  • Make sure they’re far enough away from nearby structures so that branches don’t hang over or near them.
  • Make sure they are a considerable distance away from septic systems, sidewalks, in-ground pools, etc.
  • Allow for unrestricted sunlight (black cottonwoods are intolerant of shade, especially in initial growth).
  • Remove it if the cottonwood is causing damage, as mentioned above.
  • Consider removing it if you’re constantly cleaning up broken limbs.

Keep these facts in mind when dealing with cottonwoods, and if you have further questions or concerns about cottonwoods—or tree care in general—please call Beaver Tree Service at 503-224-1338 (for Portland West Side Area) or 541-779-7072 (for Medford area).


cottonwood trees, lawn management, tree care

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