Recently I picked up a copy of The Cottonwood Tree: An American Champion by Kathleen Cain (and you should too!). In it, I was surprised to read that if you cut a twig cleanly (no crushing!), you’ll discover a reddish-brown star in the center. Well I was determined to discover a star myself!So..I headed to Monument Valley Park, where we are fortunate to have all three native cottonwoods – plains (Populus deltoides), narrowleaf (Populus angustifolia), and lanceleaf (Populus x acuminata). Several branches had come down in recent windstorms, so finding candidates for pruning was easy. It took me several cuts, but I did finally discover stars in the twigs. I most easily discovered them in the plains cottonwood and in the lanceleaf cottonwood. I could not cut and find a single star in the narrowleaf cottonwood twigs. There are all sorts of legends and stories about the star in the cottonwood, but I’ve had little luck finding information as to why the heartwood of the twigs changes color like this.


“Star” in a Plains Cottonwood Twig


“Star” in Lanceleaf Cottonwood Twig