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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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COTTONWOOD TREES. Members of the Poplar family, cottonwoods were important to Native Americans who used all parts of the tree. Their trunks were used as dugout canoes. The bark provided forage for horses and a bitter, medicinal tea for their owners. Sweet sprouts and inner bark were a food source for both humans and animals. The trees also served as trail markers and meeting places for both Native Americans and early European settlers. (1)

Cottonwood trees produce male and female parts on separate trees. In spring, female trees produce tiny, red blooms that are followed by masses of seeds with a cottony covering. The cotton-covered seeds create a significant litter problem. (2)

It was this litter and despite their shade giving qualities that the City Council in 1864 declared cottonwood trees to be a nuisance. This led to a citywide effort to remove them from the city. (3)



1. "Cottonwood Trees," Gardening Know-How. Online: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/trees/cottonwood/cottonwood-tree-in-landscapes.htm

2. Ibid.

3. "War in Dubuque," Dubuque Democratic Herald, June 17, 1864, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=A36e8EsbUSoC&dat=18640617&printsec=frontpage&hl=en