Host tree of the riparian zone, cottonwood trees feed and shelter animals and insects from the time they are small shoots until they have succumbed to old age, and their carcasses litter the banks. Young, they provide tender food for rabbits and other small mammals. Many birds, both the migrants, on their way to other climes, and the local sparrows and wrens, find nesting perches in their branches. As they become more senescent and some of their branches fall aside, eagles lurk in the higher branches of the tree on the lookout for a for a juicy meal. Their relatively soft flesh and their proclivity for rot make them a prime site for invasive insects. The presence of these ants, termites, and other bugs invite woodpeckers to the limbs of a cottonwood.
Cottonwoods must have moisture. They suck up surrounding water. They can withstand intense flooding and extended wet feet. Because of their fibrous wood, and their thirsty habits they are not popular with commercial woodsmen.
They jumble up the area around their stands with broken twigs, shards of bark, and fallen trunks. Between the insects feasting on this detritus and the birds and animals feasting on the insects, this is a lively place to visit within the desert.
Cottonwood bark is favored by carvers because of its soft flesh. Their roots are the favorite of Hopi for carving Kachinas.
I use their bark for sculptures and for bases. Their branches arch gracefully in my pieces. And I seek out their termite-infested interiors. The cellular structure of this wood almost mimics the erosion of red rocks in Sedona.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"