open main page here



COTTONWOOD

Populus spp.


the genus Populus (IN THE USA) with common names
including aspen and poplar (cottonwood)




Populus spp. of the family Salicaceae.


A note on the confusion among the names "cottonwood" / "poplar" / "tulip poplar" / "yellow poplar" / "American tulip"

When people in the USA say "poplar" they PROBABLY mean "tulip poplar" / "yellow poplar" which is NOT actually poplar at all even though the common name designates it as poplar. True poplar (what should, to avoid confusion, be called cottonwood) is Populus spp. of the family Salicaceae) but some people DO call cottonwood by the name "poplar" despite the confusion so it is sometimes hard to tell which one a person is talking about, especially since some people are not aware of the confusion.

"Tulip poplar", "yellow poplar", and "American tulip" are all names for Liriodendron tulipifera of the family Magnoliaceae. "yellow poplar" and "tulip poplar" are most the most commonly used names for Liriodendron tulipifera in the USA, AFTER the use of "poplar" itself, which is the MOST common designation for Liriodendron tulipifera even though, strictly speaking, that's the wrong designation. On this site, I list Liriodendron tulipifera as "poplar", following common useage, and I list the ACTUAL poplar as "cottonwood"

I personally think that the most logical thing to do would be to call Populus spp. "poplar" and Liriodendron tulipifera "tulip/tulipwood" (or "American tulip" to avoid confusion with Brazilian tulipwood) but as always, I don't get to make the rules, I just try to report on reality as accurately as I can.

To add to the confusion, one of the USA common names for Liriodendron tulipifera is "basswood" but the name "basswood" in the USA more commonly refers to Tilia spp. (which is also called "lime" and "lindon"). FURTHER, another USA common name for Liriodendron tulipifera is canary/canarywood, but those names more often refer, in the USA, to the South American wood Centrolobium spp.). Then just to make it all more interesting, many of the Populus species that are the wood normally called "aspen" ALL also have the names poplar and/or cottonwood or both as part of one or more of their other common names.

I COULD continue this trail of confusion until you felt that your eyeballs had been twisted into a knot, but I will spare you. This is the joy of common wood names.

In addition to the confusion among names, the woods called cottonwood and the woods called poplar, even though totally unrelated (other than both being woods) are often very hard to tell apart, even including the end grain.

This plentiful and inexpensive common hardwood is very light and easy to work, with an even texture, but surface requires very sharp tools to avoid a fuzzy/wooly texture and staining can be very blotchy (the end grain will suck up stain like a madman sucking on a straw) although it takes paint very well.

A note about Populus alba: although Populus alba has been given more names containing the word poplar (black poplar, bolleana poplar, English/European poplar, Lombardy poplar, silver poplar, silver leaf poplar, white poplar) than it has names containing the word aspen (aspen, great aspen, white aspen), AND it is most commonly sold as white poplar, it is none the less genetically closer to the aspens so it is shown on this site on the aspen page.



my samples:


both sides of a sample plank of Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


first face and the end grain of a sample of cottonwood / Populus deltoides. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION A


the second face, before and after sanding, showing how the patina from aging is only surface deep.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above.


both sides of a sample plank of curly Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was contributed to the site by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The curl is slightly weak, but very clear in the pics and slightly more so in the piece itself and obviously, there is some very nice black-line spalting.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above plus a closeup of one of the heavily spalted areas on the face grain.


both sides of a sample plank of quilted Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. It is perhaps arguable whether the figure on this sample is quilted or curly, but whatever you want to call it, it is a nice strong figure.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above; the end grain closeup pic has a bit too much red/orange


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of quilted Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. It is perhaps arguable whether the figure on this sample is quilted or curly, but whatever you want to call it, it is a nice strong figure.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above; the end grain closeup pic has a bit too much red/orange


both sides of a sample plank of quilted Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of figured Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of angel step Eastern cottonwood / Populus deltoides --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The angel step figure is very light but it is there.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Fremont poplar (aka Fremont cottonwood) / Populus fremontii --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Lombardy poplar / Populus nigra


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- the end grain closeup on this one is pretty useless. The end had been crushed by the saw and I sanded it down but clearly not quite enough and anyway, there's really no grain to be seen anyway. Also, the color is too white. LATER NOTE: OK, my comment that there is "really no grain to be seen" was stupid, as is evidenced by the end grain update directly below.


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Lombardy poplar / Populus nigra --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Lombardy poplar / Populus nigra --- HUGE enlargements are present


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- clearly the saw was not terribly sharp and this is a soft wood so the end is just crushed, not sliced.


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above



both sides and both ends of a sample piece --- pics should have just a touch more yellow


end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- pic should have just a touch more yellow


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


sample plank and end grain listed as black cottonwood / Populus trichocarpa --- pics should have just a touch more yellow


end grain closeup of the piece directly above --- pic should have just a touch more yellow


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of black cottonwood / Populus trichocarpa --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of balsam poplar / Populus balsamifera --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above --- the left side of this update is really crappy, but the middle and right show the fine grain detail very clearly so I decided not to redo the work.


both sides of a sample plank of balsam poplar / Populus balsamifera --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of balsam poplar / Populus balsamifera --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


first face and the end grain of a sample of balsam poplar / Populus balsamifera. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION B. My guess is that this sample and the slightly shorter one directly below were cut from the same plank.


the second face, before and after slicing off 1/8" showing how the patina from aging is only surface deep.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above.


first face and the end grain of a sample of balsam poplar / Populus balsamifera. This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION B. My guess is that this sample and the slightly longer one directly above were cut from the same plank.


the second face, before and after slicing off 1/8" showing how the patina from aging is only surface deep.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above.


first face and the end grain of a sample of "poplar". This part of a collection which is discussed here: COLLECTION B. I believe that the "poplar" designation properly identifies this as Populus spp., which on this site puts it here on this cottonwood page.


the second face, before and after slicing off 1/8" showing how the patina from aging is only surface deep.


end grain closeup and END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above.


both sides of a sample plank of swamp cottonwood / Populus heterophylla --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of swamp cottonwood / Populus heterophylla --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Fremont poplar / Populus fremontii --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of narrowleaf cottonwood / Populus angustifolia --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of narrowleaf cottonwood / Populus angustifolia --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


plank


plank and closeup


plank and closeup


two contiguous edges of a cottonwood (not tulip) poplar plank that was cut from one of the larger ones above and then sanded for these pics. The slightly lighter color of the wood in these pics is due to better color correction --- these are more accurate that the pics of the intact planks above.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above




all 6 faces of each of 3 bowl blanks made from a large slab sold to me as just cottonwood. In each of the pairs, the second pic shows a face that was exposed to light and air for about 10 years; the first face was not exposed. HUGE enlargements are present.



The Wood Book pics


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
large toothed poplar (Populus grandidenta, also listed as large toothed aspen, large poplar, and whitewood) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera, also listed as tacamahac) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
big cottonwood (Populus deltoides, also listed as necklace poplar and just plain "cottonwood") from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
Lombardy poplar (listed as Populus dilatata which The Plant List says is an unresolved name) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
swamp poplar (Populus heterophylla, also listed as downy poplar and river cottonwood) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii, also listed as white cottonwood) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views


web pics:


plank listed as European poplar / populus spp. and with wet and dry sections


planks


plank with a color that I do not find believable


plaques


slabs


crotch slab and figured slab


plank specifically listed as Populus granditentata (on most monitors, this shows up so pale as to be barely visible)


planks with the face grain moistened for the pic; the end grain shows the true color which is an off-white


black poplar (Populus trichocarpa) end grain


both sides and a closeup of a plank of black poplar / Populus trichocarpa


both sides and a closeup of a plank of black poplar / Populus trichocarpa


both sides of a plank of black poplar / Populus trichocarpa


both sides and a closeup of a plank of black poplar / Populus trichocarpa


figured cottonwood turning sticks that have been moistened to show the grain


turning stock


veneer


spalted cottonwood bowl blanks


spalted plank --- also appears to be a cluster burl

burls as turning stock --- I am highly dubious about the color; possibly they have been waxed


crotch bowl


spalted bowl


platter


turned box