“Trees are big creatures that live a long time, supporting vast weights of themselves at various splayed angles against the steady tug of gravity, the occasional burden of ice or snow, and the intermittent shoving and twisting of wind.” in “Reaction Wood” by David Quammen
The cottonwood that often dominates streamside woodlands in the western U.S. has numerous cousins in its Populus genus. One such species is the white poplar introduced from Europe, but in many arid landscapes of the American west the cottonwood is emblematic, approaching synecdoche. And even though the Willamette Valley is wetter than much of the cottonwood’s range it thrives here and in spring it messages the world.The tufts of cottonwood’s cotton float through the air, a srping blizzard of white fuzz. The bits catch on limbs, leaves, eyebrows, dog tails, and heavier bits float to the ground. A small cloud of white floats long distances even when there is no wind, weighting less than an eyelash.
In his essay quoted above Quammen explains the ways trees bend, grow and cope with the forced the world places against them. Along the North Yamhill River in Wennerberg Park there’s a chance to see how several deciduous trees and the Doug-fir have their various approaches to finding a place in the sun:Above: oak on left, alder on right. Below: willow in foreground, maple behind, Doug-fir in background and far right. Above: ash on left, maple in center, oak on right. Below: willows each with its own idea of willowy. The North Yamhill meanders slowly toward its appointment with the Willamette and thence the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean: