401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

Plants of the Western Slope Oct. 19, 2016

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Photo by All Schneider© -- www.swcoloradowildflowers.com Cottonwood

Cory Grade Gold
(Republished by request)

Our neighbor's flag droops upon its pole. The roadside grasses are unmoving. But the leaves on our cottonwoods do their fluttering dance in the invisible breeze. Nearly everyone that I know revels in the shimmering of our golden aspen in the fall, but there's snow on the Grand Mesa and I see that it's down to the aspen level. But we still have our cottonwoods, and we're going into Delta right away. So, I'll get to see Cory Grade with its golden cottonwoods.

We pass the Cory Store and can see the tops of the cottonwoods. We begin to go down the grade and here are the trees. Some are still green, giving a lovely contrast with the cottonwood gold. There's a tree that's half-and-half -- green on the side toward the Grand Mesa to the north and gold on the side facing south. Another one has changed entirely, golden pure gold.

Now I note that the tamarisk or salt cedar adds to the colorful scene. These introduced trees are now considered to be pests. It's a shame since they do have lovely colors: tawny tan, orange, and pinkish, even lavender. Along the roadside are clumps of poison ivy -- multicolored in their autumn hues.

The native cottonwood trees occur throughout the West and there are several species. But they are all included in the scientific group of populus named for the leaf movement reminding us of "population." The movement results from the leaf being attached sideways to its stalk, or of a twisted stalk (whichever is easiest to envision). Our aspen, Populus tremuloides, is known for the leaf movement, but we're less likely to notice the dancing leaves of our cottonwoods, Populus deltoids (from the leaf shape). And of course this common tree indicates water (sometimes subsurface) so it occurs along rivers and irrigation ditches. Needless to say, the native peoples used it in many ways: prayer sticks, looms and ceremonial effigies.

But for this afternoon, I revel in the gold of Cory Grade cottonwoods.

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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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