This is the season of cottonwood seeds. Like dandelion down, cottonwood seeds are spread by the wind and take root where they fall. They especially like wet, muddy places along the creek, but that makes them vulnerable to flooding.
Several years ago there was a crop of seedlings (like this one) that sprouted on a mud flat near the parent tree. That nursery of baby trees provided stock that I moved downstream and planted in the wetland of the abandoned meander. It was an impressive field of young trees with great potential. However, a “rain bomb” storm event hit the watershed, the Creek flooded, and the nursery of little cottonwoods was swept away. The several dozen seedlings that I had transplanted were also wiped out. Sometimes it’s hard to work with Mother Nature.
The “tree” in “Lone Tree Farm” was a cottonwood. This photo is taken near the location of that old lone tree where the homesteading family lived in their dugout. We like to think that maybe this tree is the offspring of that original ancestor. The seed and seedlings shown above are from this survivor. But, now it’s the only cottonwood tree left in our pasture. It’s the last cottonwood on Lone Tree Farm.
The ancestral lone tree was reported to be huge. It supposedly took several grown men to reach around it. After it fell in the 1930s a lot of stories were left behind. There was a legend of a trapper’s treasure buried nearby and it was said to be a boundary marker between Indian territories. My brother and I looked for the treasure when we played along the Creek, but all that we ever found was shared excitement in the holes that we dug. There was a stream used by white mapmakers to divide Indian territories, but that was several drainages farther east. A case could be made that the original lone tree was used to approximate the state line because Iowa is less than a quarter mile to the south. Stories don’t have to be true to be interesting.
But, all of those traditions and speculations are transcended by the reality of this seed season. The old lone tree is long gone. The offspring is spreading new seeds. Some of those seeds will survive somewhere. And, the summer solstice is tomorrow.