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Cottonwood

Common Name(s): Black Cottonwood


So named for its cotton-like strands that accompany the tree’s seeds in the spring. Black Cottonwood is the largest hardwood tree in Western North America.

Thicknesses

Tree Size: 80-150 ft (25-45 m) tall, 5-6 ft (1.5-2.0 m) trunk diameter

Distribution

Northwestern North America

Scientific Name

Populus trichocarpa

Specific Gravity: Basic 12% MC

0.31

Specific Gravity: 12% MC

0.38

Janka Hardness

350 lbf (1,560 N)

Colour/Appearance

Heartwood tends to be a light brown. Sapwood is a pale yellow to nearly white, and isn’t clearly demarcated, tending to gradually blend into the heartwood.

Grain/Texture

Grain is generally straight to slightly irregular or interlocked. Uniform medium texture with low natural luster.

Endgrain

Diffuse-porous; solitary and radial multiples; medium pores in no specific arrangement, moderately numerous to numerous; parenchyma marginal; narrow rays, spacing fairly close.

Rot Resistance

Rated as non-durable, and also susceptible to insect attack.

Workability

Easy to work with hand and machine tools, though sharp cutters are necessary when planing to avoid fuzzy surfaces, (subsequent fine-sanding may be necessary to obtain a smooth surface). Responds poorly to steam bending. Does not split easily, and has poor nail-holding capability. Wood has a tendency to warp and distort during drying. Glues and finishes well.

Odor

Has a sour odor when green, which disappears once the wood is dry.

Allergies/Toxicity

Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Black Cottonwood.

Pricing/Availability

Cottonwood is generally regarded as low-value wood, and isn’t commonly harvested or available as lumber—though it can usually be found throughout its natural range for utility purposes. Carving blocks or burl blanks are sometimes available for hobbyist purposes. Prices are low for a domestic hardwood.

Sustainability

This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
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