Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kansas Cottonwood Trees

I enjoy seeing Cottonwood trees around Kansas. Since I travel so many rural roads, I have seen many stately cottonwood trees, which are found mainly around and along streams and rivers.

The early settlers of Kansas prized finding cottonwood trees on the plains, because they knew there might be water nearby. Many of these trees were used as landmarks on the early trails.
See some facts about cottonwood trees at the following page from the Great Plains Nature Center web pages:

Eastern Cottonwood near Studley
I have visited both of the largest known cottonwood trees in Kansas. The largest Eastern Cottonwood is near Studley in eastern Sheridan County in northwest Kansas. According to the Kansas Forest Service, this tree is over 35 ft in circumference (measured 4.5 ft off the ground), is 96 ft tall, and has a spread of 127 ft at the crown.

The largest Plains Cottonwood tree in Kansas is off West 4th Avenue on Avery Rd in western Reno County. I actually think this tree is more massive on it's trunk since is is tighter packed. I have visited this tree several times. It is almost 31 ft in circumference, 90 ft tall, and has a spread of 98 ft. Notice the size of the trunk in the photo below compared to me with outstretched arms. Note: the Poison Ivy did not seem to bother me.

Plains Cottonwood trunk with me in front

Female cottonwood trees produce the fluffy white seeds in the spring to early summer that gives the tree it's name. See the photo below which shows a cottonwood seed shower I was in near Arlington, KS.

Cottonwood Seed Shower
 I also enjoy traveling down lanes with cottonwood trees lining both sides. A good example of this is a stretch of Herren Rd south of Greenfield Rd in Reno County, KS.

Herren Road Cottonwoods

Also, another custom that attracts people to cottonwood trees is to attach something to the tree. There is a cottonwood tree near Wetmore in northeast Kansas, that people have been nailing shoes to for over 20 years. See the article about this tree at the following address on the Kansas Sampler Foundation's web pages:

This tree inspired another. On a large cottonwood tree on his farm near Partridge, Jay Yoder has started a tree with license plates (tags). Nails and a hammer are provided so you can put your license plate on the tree facing towards your home. Karen and I visited this tree this past weekend and put her Indiana license on the tree facing northeast - See the photo below.

Jay Yoder's license plate Cottonwood
In conclusion, it's no wonder that the cottonwood tree has been named the official Kansas state tree.


Connie Hatch said...

Larry, maybe you are of the Hornbakers of Stafford County and Peacecreek is a place you know??? I hope so. Looking for photos, older perhaps, of the row of cottonwoods as you are driving West on 4th avenue out of Hutchinson, and would be close to what was once known as Huntsville in Reno County. I know they were planted by Cramer ancestors who settled in Huntsville in the 1880's. In the 50's and 60's, as you drove through, it was a virtual canopy on both sides of the road. Now they are dying out. Any knowledge? Any old photos perhaps?

Connie Hatch said...

Do you have family ties in Stafford County and are you familiar with Huntsville in Reno County, and Peacecreek Community? I am looking for information on the canopy of cottonwoods along west 4th, reported to be planted by my great-grandfather's brother John Cramer in the late 1800s. Now they are dying but I remember when they were a canopy over the highway. Looking for photos, perhaps older photos.

Larry Hornbaker, KE 2013 said...

Not sure how to contact you - maybe you will notice this post.
My grandfather, Vernon Wesner Hornbaker was a younger brother to Frank Hornbaker, who I believe was one of the first Hornbakers in Stafford County. We still have a number of them at annual reunions. I don't have any more information about the cottonwoods. Have you tried the Reno County Historical Society or Genealogical Society?