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Kansas State Tree

Cottonwood   Adopted:1937
Kansas State Tree: Cottonwood
Kansas State Tree: Cottonwood

Adoption of the Kansas State Tree

The broad Kansas prairie was often foreign and intimidating to settlers moving west from the Ohio valley, the Appalachian Mountains or New England. The landscapes they had left back home were covered with trees that provided wood for building homes, fuel for cooking, fuel to warm the hearth during a harsh winter and shade to protect them from a hot summer sun. Following the Oregon and Santa Fe trails west, trees were in very short supply.

When a cottonwood tree was spotted, thoughts of shade, water, wood and back home filled the minds of weary travelers. The cottonwood gave those traveling through the state a respite from the summer sun and the courage to continue west.

Those staking out a new life on the Kansas prairie routinely planted the fast-growing cottonwood to provide the shade, warmth and cooking fuel they had left in the east. Because of the part played by the tree in the early days of settlement, the cottonwood has been called the pioneer tree of Kansas.

House Bill No. 113, introduced by State Representative Relihan, started the official process that led to the cottonwood being adopted as the official state tree of Kansas by an act of the Kansas Legislature, approved on March 23, 1937.

Kansas State Tree: Cottonwood
Snowy plain, cottonwood trees, and lone bison
Artist: Tom Murphy

The Kansas legislation did not specify a particular variety of cottonwood and there hasn't always been agreement about the classification of cottonwoods that do grow in Kansas.

Populus deltoides has been referred to as the eastern cottonwood. But, some botanists recognize two variations of Populus deltoides, var. deltoides commonly called the eastern cottonwood and var. occidentalis Rydb. commonly referred to as the plains cottonwood.

Which is the Kansas state tree? Both varieties grow in Kansas though only the variation defined as occidentalis is considered native to the state by the USDA's National Resources Conservation Service, PLANTS database. On the other hand, the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, Kansas describes the state tree as the eastern cottonwood or generically, (Populus deltoides). Either or both varieties can probably be considered official.

Eastern cottonwood is also referred to as southern cottonwood, Carolina poplar, eastern poplar, necklace poplar, or álamo.

Plains cottonwood may be referred to as Texas cottonwood, river cottonwood, western cottonwood, or plains poplar. The plains cottonwood is the state tree of Wyoming though, in the legislation, it's not referred to as a variation of Populus deltoides but as Populus sargentii!

The Kansas Statutes

The following information is excerpted from the Kansas Statutes, Chapter 73, Article 10, Section 73-1001.

Additional Information

Kansas State Tree: Cottonwood
Kansas State Tree: Cottonwood

Populus deltoides: University of Connecticut Plant Database of Trees, Shrubs and Vines.

Cottonwood (Populus deltoides): Tree Identification Fact Sheet from the Virginia Tech. Landowner factsheet.

Plant Profile for Populus deltoides Bartr. ex Marsh. (Cottonwood): USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Populus deltoides Bartr. ex Marsh. (Cottonwood): United States Department of Agriculture: Forest Service: Agriculture Handbook 654: Silvics of North America.

Populus deltoides (Cottonwood): Plant Encyclopedia from MyGardenGuide.

Cottonwood: The Great Plains Nature Center, Witchita, Kansas. At the crossroads of the continent.

State Tree List: List of all of the state state trees.

A Field Guide to Eastern Trees (Peterson Field Guides) (Paperback): by George A. Petrides, Janet Wehr (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin; 2 edition (July 15, 1998).

A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs : Northeastern and north-central United States and southeastern and south-central Canada (Peterson Field Guides(R)): by George A. Petrides (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin; 2 edition (September 6, 1973).

A Field Guide to Eastern Forests : North America (Peterson Field Guides(R)) (Paperback): by John C. Kricher (Photographer), Gordon Morrison (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin (October 15, 1998).

A Field Guide to Western Trees (Peterson Field Guides: 44) (Paperback): by George A. Petrides, Olivia Petrides (Illustrator), Roger Tory Peterson (Series Editor), Houghton Mifflin; 2 edition (July 25, 1998)

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees : Western Region: by Elbert Luther Little, Knopf; Chanticleer Press ed edition (June 12, 1980).

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees : Eastern Region: by Elbert Luther Little. Knopf; Chanticleer Press ed edition (May 12, 1980).

America's Famous and Historic Trees: From George Washington's Tulip Poplar to Elvis Presley's Pin Oak (Hardcover) by Jeffrey G. Meyer. America's Famous and Historic Trees tells the stories of various trees that Meyer and his cohorts rescued or propagated: oftentimes, when trees were going to be cut down, he and his workers headed off the bulldozers, rescuing the tree with their massive tree hoe. Other trees--like the Indian Marker Pecan in southeast Dallas--were propagated before they died.

Trees : National Champions (Hardcover) by Barbara Bosworth. Bosworth captures the ineffable grace and dignity of trees with clarity and directness: the green ash that shades a midwestern crossroads, the common pear that blooms in a Washington field, and the Florida strangler fig with its mass of entwining aerial roots. Her black and white photographs, panoramic views taken with an 8 x 10 camera, show the immensity of the largest species and the hidden triumphs of the smallest

Plants, Seeds & Flowers: Bulbs, seeds, plants, fertilizer, plant containers and more.

Gardening Tools: Pruners, rakes, shovels, hoes, trowels, cultivators and tillers, greenhouses, yard carts and more.

State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002

State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: A Study based on historical documents giving the origin and significance of the state names, nicknames, mottoes, seals, flowers, birds, songs, and descriptive comments on the capitol buildings and on some of the leading state histories, Revised Edition - George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938 (Reprint Services Corp. 1971)


Source: Kansas Statutes, (http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-statutes/index.do), October 30, 2005
Source: Great Plains Nature Center, (http://www.gpnc.org/), November 6, 2005
Source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Database, (http://plants.usda.gov/), November 6, 2005
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
Source: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: Revised Edition (Reprint)- George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938

 
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