When I let the dogs out this morning the small cottonwoods caught my attention with their beautifully detailed leaves. Fascinating to me is the fact that they are turning from the bottom toward the top. Also interesting to note is that these little trees are this year's volunteers. They already stand nearly three feet high. In a handful of years they will actually provide shade.
While they are abundant in the west, cottonwoods are not necessarily favored children. They are huge water hogs. They typically spring up along rivers and irrigation ditches and can actually put a measurable drain on the water flow. They release snowy clouds of pollen fuzz to which nearly everyone is allergic to some degree. And Kent and I can attest that while they are abundant for firewood, it takes a heavy duty splitter and brute force to break them up small enough to burn. They also burn fast. But in an area where shade is a desirable and frequently scarce resource, you've got to love how quickly and thoroughly they can shade you.
What we haven't figured out is why there are several little cottonwoods springing up on our high altitude, waterless property. Still, anything that is willing to live here is welcome.