Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Populus fremontii, Fremont Cottonwood

Fremont Cottonwood, or Fremont’s Cottonwood is a large, fast growing riparian tree that provides important habitat requirements for mammals, birds and insects. Populus fremontiiFremont Cottonwood is a southwestern United States species that is native to lower and upper deserts. Populus fremontiiFremont Cottonwood is a very large conspicuous tree that thrives in riparian areas such as rivers, streams and perennial washes, often growing in nearly pure stands. Populus fremontiiFremont Cottonwood is a large flat-topped deciduous tree with heart or cordate shaped green leaves with serrated margins. Populus fremontiiFremont Cottonwood has inconspicuous green or yellow-green flowers and yellowish twigs. Populus fremontii

Scientific Name: Populus fremontii
Common Name: Fremont Cottonwood
Also Called: Alamo Cottonwood, Arizona Cottonwood, Cottonwood, Fremont's Cottonwood, (Spanish: Álamo)
Family: Salicaceae or Willow Family
Synonyms: (Populus macdougallii)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Often up to 50 feet although may reach as high as 90 feet under ideal conditions.
Growth Form: Tree, large fast growing riparian tree; trunk diameter of 4 feet not uncommon; dioecious; twigs yellowish, large main branches, top or crown of tree wide and flat-topped, older bark gray-brown and deeply furrowed, winter buds resinous.
Leaves: Green, bluish-green; variable across range and sub-species, deciduous; leaves cordate to sub-cordate; leaves with petiole; margins scalloped; prominent white lined leaf veins; leaves turning yellow in fall.
Flower Color: Green or yellowish-green; inconspicuous.
Flowering Season: February to May; March to April in California.
Elevation: Up to 6,000 feet.

Habitat Preferences: Thrives in riparian areas such as rivers, streams, perennial washes, often grows in pure stands or may be the dominant or co-dominant species with Gooding Willow and other primary riparian species such as Black Cottonwood, Salix sp., Walnut, and Velvet Ash.

Recorded Range: Fremont's Cottonwood is found in the Southwestern United States in AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV, TX and UT. In Arizona it is found almost throughout the state with few or no records in Apache county.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Populus fremontii.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: No information available.

Wetland Indicator: In North America Populus fremontii has the following wetland designations: Top Level Regions - Lower 48 States, FACW; North America, FACW.
FACW = Facultative Wetland, usually occur in wetlands, but may occur in non-wetlands

Threatened/Endangered Information: No information available.

Genus Information: In North America there are 27 species and 34 accepted taxa overall for Populus. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 98 accepted species names with 170 infraspecific rank for the genus.

In the Southwestern United States, Arizona there are 5 species of Populus, in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas each have 6 species and Utah has 7 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

There are 2 sub-species in Populus fremontii;
Populus fremontii subsp. fremontii, Fremont Cottonwood, (AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV, UT);
Populus fremontii subsp. mesetae, Fremont Cottonwood, (AZ, TX).

Comments: Fremont Cottonwood is common in southwestern United States deserts where it is found along streams commonly with Arizona Walnut (Juglans major), Goodding's Willow, Salix gooddingii and Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii).

Populus fremontii, along with co-dominant willow trees, provides important habitat for a wide variety of birds and many other dessert and riparian dwelling species in the Southwestern United States. Fremont's Cottonwood is a conspicuous and important riparian species that provides significant perches and nesting habitat for large and small birds and provides cover and shade for a host of mammals, including deer, squirrels, raccoons, ring-tails, beavers and an assortment of rodents.

Populus fremontii may hybridize with Narrowleaf- and Black- Cottonwood, however, the 2 species overlap with each other apparently without hybridization.

Fremont's Cottonwood named in honor of John Charles Fremont (1813-1890).

For a comprehensive thoroughly documented review of Populus fremontii see the USDA USFS Fire Effects Information System, or FEIS.

Populus fremontii has been used for a variety of uses by Southwestern American indigenous peoples.
Cahuilla Drug, Analgesic, Infusion of bark and leaves used to wet a handkerchief and tie it around the head for headaches.
Diegueno Drug, Dermatological Aid, Infusion of leaves used as a wash or poultice of leaves applied to bruises, wounds or insect stings.
Havasupai Fiber, Building Material, Wood used for fence posts and in the construction of shades and houses.
Mendocino Indian Drug, Dermatological Aid, Decoction of bark used as a wash for bruises and cuts.
Pima Drug, Dermatological Aid, Decoction of plant used as a wash for sores.
Yuki Drug, Cold Remedy, Infusion of bark or leaves taken for colds.
Yuki Drug, Dermatological Aid, Infusion of bark or leaves taken for cuts and sores.
See all ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

Date Profile Completed: 07/25/2016,updated 06/06/2017, updated format 10/03/2017
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 07/25/2016)
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 07/25/2016).
Taylor, Jennifer L. 2000. Populus fremontii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [2016, July 25].
1993, The Jepson Manual, Citation: (accessed 07/25/2016),7039,0,7043
SEINet for synonyms, scientific names, recorded geographic locations and general information 07/25/2016).