We recently received an inquiry requesting help identifying a particular tree in Seattle’s Colman Park. Martha Edmond, the inquirer, wrote:
“I wonder if you are able to help me. I am researching an artist who painted along the west shore of Lake Washington (circa 1905) near Colman Park. The artist included a row of trees in his work. I was told years ago by a dendrologist that they were native to the West Coast, and that they were willows—but they are certainly not “weeping” willows.
An article is being published on this artist, and it would be nice to identify the type of tree. I am attaching some views of the trees that I took on a trip to Colman Park. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!”
We forwarded the photos to a few folks here at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, and Professor Sarah Reichard immediately guessed that it was likely some sort of poplar—possibly a Lombardy poplar—but said she would need more than a slightly unfocused image to be certain.
So, taking advantage of lovely weather this week, Professor Emeritus Bob Edmonds and his wife decided to head over to Colman Park to have a look in person. They found two poplars in the area and confirmed that one does, in fact, have the small leaves and crown shape of a Lombardy poplar, which has European roots and is not native to the Pacific Northwest. Edmonds says the other, which has larger leaves and a different crown shape, is likely a black cottonwood, which is native to North America, including Washington and Oregon. Who knew such a seemingly simple inquiry could yield such a complicated explanation?
Thanks to everyone for helping solve this mystery, and we hope we were able to help Martha Edmond and Ottawa Magazine with their story!
Photo © Martha Edmond.