Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cottonwood Posts

With spring just around the corner I decided to write a series of posts about black cottonwoods (Populus trichocarpa). I’ve done this because I like cottonwoods. They are ubiquitous in the Bella Coola Valley and all the other large coastal river valleys that spill out of the Coast Mountains and into the inlets and fjords of the Pacific West Coast. Great stands of cottonwoods in the river valley bottoms of the Central Coast for the most part are not economical to log except in a few locations where the conditions are suitable and markets close enough.  Many of the stands also occur in areas reserved for fish habitat or grizzly bear habitat as well.   Cottonwoods are a pioneer species, they come in first and fast whenever ground gets disturbed.  They are usually the first species to colonize freshly created gravel river bars along the Bella Coola River, especially after a year like we had in 2009 with the October flood.   If the stands are left to grow, they pass out of existence over a 100 years or so as the cedar, Douglas Fir, spruce and western hemlock species slowly emerge and the big cottonwoods die and let more light in. 

Black cottonwood is a widespread species in western North America.  In some places on the great plains of the USA and the Prairies of Canada the other closely related species of cottonwood are really important as they tend to be "gallery" forests, confined to stream banks and low areas and then ending abruptly where it turns back into prairie.  People and wildlife both enjoy those kinds of areas on the prairies.  I hope people reading elsewhere can relate to my posts and that maybe I will learn a few more things about cottonwoods.

The posts will roughly follow the phenology of the plant throughout the season, so watch for the first one soon.   

Spring has taken a slowdown the last few days in the Bella Coola Valley, today we barely saw the mountain tops, had a cool breeze and the occasional raindrop are all very typical of the month of March in the Central Coast.  Grizzly

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