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Kansas State Tree

CottonwoodKansas State Tree: Cottonwood

(Salicaceae Populus deltoides)

Adopted on March 23, 1937.

Kansas House Bill No. 113, introduced by State Representative Relihan, led to the cottonwood being adopted as the official state tree of Kansas by an act of the Kansas Legislature, approved on March 23, 1937.

The Kansas legislation did not specify a particular variety of cottonwood and there hasn't always been agreement about the classification of cottonwoods that do grow in Kansas.

Eastern cottonwood (typical) (Populus deltoides var. deltoides) is also called southern cottonwood, Carolina poplar, eastern poplar, necklace poplar, and álamo.

Kansas State Tree: Cottonwood

Kansas State Tree: CottonwoodEastern cottonwood, (Salicaceae Populus deltoides,) one of the largest eastern hardwoods, is short-lived but the fastest-growing commercial forest species in North America.

It grows best on moist well-drained sands or silts near streams, often in pure stands. The lightweight, rather soft wood is used primarily for core stock in manufacturing furniture and for pulpwood. Eastern cottonwood is one of the few hardwood species that is planted and grown specifically for these purposes.

Besides the typical eastern variety (var. deltoides), there is a western variety, plains cottonwood (var. occidentalis). Its leaves, more broad than long, are slightly smaller and more coarsely toothed than the typical variety.

Kansas State Tree: CottonwoodPopulus deltoides has been referred to as the eastern cottonwood. But, some botanists recognize two variations of Populus deltoides, var. deltoides commonly called the eastern cottonwood and var. occidentalis Rydb. commonly referred to as the plains cottonwood.

Both varieties grow in Kansas though only the variation defined as occidentalis is considered native to the state by the USDA's National Resources Conservation Service, PLANTS database. But, the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, Kansas describes the state tree as the eastern cottonwood or generically, (Populus deltoides). Either or both varieties can probably be considered official.)

Identification of the Kansas Cottonwood

  • Size: 80 - 100 feet with 40 - 60 ft. Spread
  • Growth: Rapid; moderate to long life span.
  • Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, 3 to 6 inches long, triangular (deltoid) in shape with a crenate/serrate margin. The petiole is flattened and glands are present at the top of the petiole.
  • Flower: Dioecious, male and female as pendulous catkins, appearing before the leaves.
  • Fruit: Cottony seeds, 1/4 inch long borne in a dehiscent capsule. Maturing over summer.
  • Twig: Stout, somewhat angled and yellowish. Buds are 3/4 inch long, covered with several brown, resinous scales. Has a bitter aspirin taste.
  • Bark: Smooth, gray to yellow-green when young. Later turning gray with thick ridges and deep furrows.
  • Form: A large tree with a clear bole and an open spreading crown resulting in a somewhat vase-shaped form.

Kansas House Bill No. 113

House Bill No. 113, introduced by State Representative Relihan, started the official process that led to the cottonwood being adopted as the official state tree of Kansas by an act of the Kansas Legislature, approved on March 23, 1937.

Chapter 318
Designating the Cottonwood Tree as the official state tree
HOUSE BILL NO. 113

AN ACT designating the cottonwood tree as the official state tree of Kansas.

WHEREAS, If the full truth were known, it might honestly be said that the successful growth of the cottonwood grove on the homestead was often the determining factor in the decision of the homesteader to "stick it out until he could prove up on his claim"; and

WHEREAS the cottonwood tree can rightfully be called "the pioneer tree of Kansas"; Now therefore,

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas:

Section 1. That the tree be known as the cottonwood is hereby designated and declared to be the official tree of the state of Kansas.

Sec. 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its publication in the statute book.

Approved March 23, 1937.

Kansas Statutes

Chapter 73.--SOLDIERS, SAILORS AND PATRIOTIC EMBLEMS.
Article 10.--STATE TREE.
SECTION 73-1001.

73-1001. Designation. The tree known as the cottonwood is hereby designated and declared to be the official tree of the state of Kansas.
History:
L. 1937, ch. 318, § 1; June 30.

Taxonomic Hierarchy of the Eastern Cottonwood

Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta --Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta --Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida --Dicotyledons
Subclass Dilleniidae --
Order Salicales --
Family Salicaceae --Willow family
Genus Populus L. --cottonwood
Species Populus deltoides Bartr. ex Marsh. --eastern cottonwood

Source:
Dendrology at Virginia Tech
US Department of Agriculture

State Trees
State Trees
All of the state trees, except the Hawaii state tree, are native to the state in which they are designated.

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