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Fremont Cottonwood
Populus fremontii
About Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) Nurseries Show All Photos The Fremont Cottonwood is a cottonwood native to North America, growing in riparian areas near streams, rivers, and wetlands in the southwestern part of the United States, and downwards into Mexico. It is a large tree growing from 12-35 meters in height, with a trunk up to 1.5 meter diameter. The bark is smooth when young, becoming deeply fissured with whitish cracked bark on old trees. Flower cluster consists of a long drooping catkin, which blooms from March to April. The fruit is a wind dispersed achene, that appears to look like patches of cotton hanging from limbs, thus the name cottonwood. Often only the male plants are sold. The leaves are heart-shaped with white veins and coarse crenate teeth along the sides. It's an important plant for birds and butterflies.

Fremont Cottonwoods require moist soil and plenty of sun, but are tough and easy to grow. When properly situated and with access to plenty of water, they can grow 10-20 feet in a year and reach up to 100 feet in height and 35 feet in width - so not a great choice for small gardens. Best to plant these trees by creeks, in seeps, or in areas with plenty of natural water. Unless planted by a lawn that gets daily water, they require more water than you're likely to want to give them through artificial irrigation. They can handle occasional flooding without a problem. The leaves are beautiful and create a spectacular effect when they shimmer in the wind.

This plant is tough and easy to grow, and pretty much foolproof as long as it gets enough water.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
39.4 - 114.8 ft (12 - 35 m)

Max. Width
35 ft (10.7 m)

Upright Columnar


Growth Rate

Winter Deciduous

Blade 3-7 cm long, triangular, yellow-green, sometimes hairy, often stained with milky resin.

Flower Color
White, Cream

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Almost always found in riparian or other wetland habitats such as alluvial bottom lands, streamsides, and seeps throughout the state, up to 6,500 ft. Usually found adjacent to chaparral, valley grassland, and several types of woodland vegetation communities. In desert riparian areas it occurs adjacent to creosote bush scrub or desert transition chaparral.


Elevation ?
-190' - 7224'

Annual Precip. ?
2.5" - 75.8"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.54"

Coldest Month ?
29.9° F - 62.1° F

Hottest Month ?
58.4° F - 89.5° F

Humidity ?
0.46 vpd - 47.01 vpd

Soil Description
Accepts either sandy or clay soil as long as there is sufficient water

Soil Texture
Sandy Clay

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Saline Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 5° F

Companion Plants
Wildlife Attracted
Insects, especially butterflies, and birds

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
Keep moist
No Summer Water
Keep moist


Pest Control
Subject to truck and branch canker if drought stressed

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment. Use fresh seeds, usually viable only a few days. Seeds should not be covered or pressed into medium; seedbed should be kept saturated for first mo. Easily propagated from stem cuttings.

Common uses
Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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