Cottonwood Tree, Gilbert AZ

Unlike some evergreen desert plants, the cottonwood trees along Queen Creek Wash take winter seriously: they’ve dropped all their leaves.  As I recall, they’ll be fully green again by the time we leave, in late March.

Until I looked it up, I didn’t know that “cottonwood” refers to a genus of 25 – 35 species, whose English names include “poplar” and “aspen” as well as “cottonwood.”  A Prairie girl, I grew up with poplars galore, but I had never associated those fast-growing but not super impressive trees with the huge cottonwood specimens that line every source of water in Arizona, even the ephemeral ones

And until I looked again, I didn’t see that they’re even more beautiful with just their bone structure showing.

Collage of cottonwood photo, with 7 filters

7 Comments

  1. Jim Taylor

    I had a book, once, called Trees in Winter. It was all about how branches bifurcate (I think that’s the right word) to form the characteristic shape of the tree in leaf. But it did change my perspective. I no longer thought of trees as bare in winter; I thought of them as revealed.
    Jim T

  2. To continue Jim’s point, humans are like that, too. One of my more awe-filled experiences was being allowed into a gross anatomy lab to see a friend’s dissection of “his” cadaver in progress. The resultant poem began:

    Hand-structure bone and gleaming tissue
    muscle stretched from stem to tip encircled
    to extend and touch itself
    inanimate, miraculous

    Artists study skeletons and other supporting structures to be able to see more clearly the surfaces that meet the eye. Then, the skeleton becomes an objet d’art in and of itself.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – Lovely. The best point of contact I have with that is doing structural editing, where it’s quite exciting to finally find the bones underlying a mess of words, and then to be able to put those bones in a sensible order. It can be a thing of beauty, too.

  3. John H

    Hamilton, New Zealand lies hidden beneath incredible tree cover in the summer and is only to be seen in its full extent in winter. This is a phenomenon best viewed from the upper wards (6 and 7) of the local hospital and one which I have had cause to observe many times over the past few years. One winter, it occurred to me how perverse trees are compare to us humans. In the winter when we pile the clothes on to keep warm they ‘undress’ and only get fully dressed when the temperatures rise in spring and summer and we go semi naked – at least here they do!

    1. Isabel Gibson

      John H – I had to look up Hamilton to see where it sits relative to the few places in New Zealand that I’ve visited – Auckland likely being the closest. Certainly the trees we saw in that general area were fantastic – and held many lovely birds, best observed (as they are here) when the trees are relatively bare. I guess if we had leaves with which to transpire, we might adopt a different strategy for our warmer months!

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