On an Open Space path I’ve walked many times there are many tall cottonwood trees along a part of the creek. One in particular has been a favorite – an enormous, glorious tree that somehow seemed larger and more majestic than the rest. But it literally fell victim to the fierce winds that ripped through the region weeks ago. On a recent walk, I found it laying on its side. The loss of this tree has stuck with me for some reason, though the objective side of me knows this is just part of the cycle. Still.
Cottonwoods are the largest broadleaf trees in Colorado and the only ones to grow on the plains. Above ground, their branches can reach close to 200 feet into the sky. Below ground, their sprawling roots reduce erosion and slow floodwater. Of course, the trees also provide a habitat for many local species.
They get their name from their seeds that look like snow. Often in the springtime, a breeze makes it look like flakes are falling and the ground below cottonwoods looks like it’s blanketed in snow. Once sprouted, the trees will grow and live for up to a hundred years. “My” tree was certainly that old, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the changes it had witnessed in those years. Now it will spend the next 100 years returning to the earth, continuing to provide for the surrounding environment.