Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cottonwoods Hoping for Drier Times in Vermont?

As I look out my window on this sunny afternoon I see cottonwood seeds swirling in the wind, probably blowing up from the trees along the nearby river.  Highlighted in the bright sun, they almost look like light snow.

The eastern cottonwood trees know what they are doing.  Their tiny seeds can only germinate in wet areas of bare soil, usually consisting of mud or sand banks left by receding rivers after floods.  As Vermont slowly dries out (hopefully for the summer), the smaller rivers are dropping, and the larger rivers will soon as well.  The Middlebury River, for instance, has dropped several inches today, exposing new places for cottonwood seeds to germinate.  While I was dipping my feet in the cold river, I noticed several fluffy seeds blowing into the water, perhaps to be deposited in a suitable site for germination.

The forecast looks promising for cottonwoods, farmers, and people recovering from the recent floods.  Tomorrow there may be a line of thunderstorms with brief heavy rain and strong winds, but it is expected to be a fast-moving storm.  After it passes, no more rain is forecast for the rest of the week.

I don't know if the cottonwoods actually release more seeds after flooding, or if they have just adapted to time their seed release to a time of year when water levels typically drop.  Either way, this year will probably be a good one for cottonwoods.  These trees are very well adapted to cyclical floods, and a larger than average number of cottonwood seedlings will probably survive this year, since there is lots of new habitat for them to colonize.

I've posted some pictures below from the latest series of storms that came through on Memorial Day Weekend.




And... some debris floating down the flooded Connecticut River near Fairlee, VT.


1 comment:

  1. This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Plant Taxonomy students at Jacksonville University. Online Plant Nursery