Flurries, with Blowing and Drifting . . .

Blowing and drifting snow?!

No, it was 90 Fahrenheit yesterday (about 32 C) in upstate New York–a record for the date. We don’t have snow but we have flurries and squalls and storms and drifts . . . of cottonwood seeds.

For 11 months and two weeks of the year we love our cottonwood trees (populus deltoides). The are very tall and offer lots of shade; they are tolerant of cold and flooding.

But for two weeks in June, they are more than a little annoying. In early June, they spread their seeds in small fluffs of “cotton” and the sky is full of this snow.


The fluff covers the ground, and drifts and swirls in the breeze. Rain tamps it down but also turns it into a nasty mat that clogs downspouts and gutters. Cats track it in and the wind blows it into every open door.

The fluff sticks to sweaty skin and wafts into cocktails. It collects in spider webs and on the flowers of every blossom. This thin layer of fuzzy white acts as a scrim, blunting the bright colors of June.

The good news is that it lasts for only two weeks. By the end of June, the airborne fluff will be gone and only the residual mats of seed will remain. Oh, and the sprouts that I’ll be pulling for the rest of the summer.

In other early-summer-outdoor-news, every sunset seeks to outdo the previous night.


IMG_7680And the goslings grow.


Is early summer fulfilling your expectations and delighting you?


65 thoughts on “Flurries, with Blowing and Drifting . . .

  1. A fluffy phenomenon I’d never heard of before – definitely a time to keep doors and windows closed I would think.. Those sunsets really do look beautiful.

    • Yes–it’s very cottony. I guess the trees are a type of poplar. The old-timers call them “popples.” The road art must’ve been done by a youngster down the road–I saw it on my walk. The fact that she could do it right in the middle of the road shows just how quiet our location is!

  2. I feel for you. It looks as if your trees are hardy producers! When we lived in Alaska, cottonwood season could be a real challenge. But one of my favorite smells is newly emerging cottonwood leaves. Heaven. Also, apparently some people have used the fluff for spinning. Perhaps you could start a new weaving trend!

    • Hmmmm . . . cottonwood leaves have a smell? Who knew–I hope I can remember, next spring, to go out and experience that! It does seem like that fluff should be good for something but I’ll leave it to others to figure that out.

      • It may be that not all types of cottonwood are fragrant, I don’t know. The ones in Alaska smell incredibly wonderful for about a week when the leaves are breaking out of the buds. It’s a spicy, resiny fragrance. After an Alaskan winter, with few smells but woodsmoke, it was quite intoxicating.

  3. I remember, growing up in St. Paul (MN), this same event and reveling in its ethereal/”snow globe” appearance. Yes, the ‘practical’ down sides are present (for adults!) but, for children, of all ages, these poofs transformed my “concrete jungle” into a brief wonderland of faeries and clouds that were sent airborn as we all skipped along. Pure dreaminess!!!!!

    • I can see how the fluff would be a different experience for kids! We didn’t have any near the farm so it has just been as an adult that I’ve dealt with it. It can still be magical . . .

  4. 90 here today. πŸ™‚ Question – is that your year round view or your summer view? I want to know how jealous I need to be. πŸ™‚ Also, does that fluff turn into sprouts in the soil and mulch that you have to then pull out or does it just blow around and go away?

    • It is our view all year round although, as you can guess, it is decidely less appealing in the winter, when the wind screams across the ice. We are very, very lucky to live here. And each little bit of fluff contains a seed so, yes, in addition to acorn sprouts, I pull a lot of cottonwood sprouts . . .

  5. I have three cottonwoods that have sprouted within 20 feet of my driveway, and I notice that each year they produce more fluff. Luckily the stuff is far enough away not to settle in our gutters. As you say, it’s like snow in June.

    • The trees get SO big and tall–they have more pods every year, I think. We have new neighbors, very close, and they cut their cottonwoods down but it isn’t doing them any good because all the rest of us are sharing our fluff with them!

    • Actually, the prettiest thing is the little green pods that eventually dry out, split and release the fluff. They’re a series of round things, almost like a strand of green pearls–I really should’ve included a photo.

  6. Gosh, that cottonseed is quite something. And those sunsets. How are your goslings doing? We have watched our little family of eight mallard ducklings become six, then five, then four, then two ….. then zero. Blame the geese apparently, and also mallard drakes who are not the father, and want rid of another duck’s children. Nature red in tooth and claw. Cottonseed might be irritating, but it’s no murderer. Lovely post, thank you.

  7. Oh no! Cottonwood seeds wafting into your cocktails! I think I might have a strainer for that.

    With or without the fluff, your yard looks great. Love that deep bed with hostas. And of course, those beautiful sunsets are amazing.

    • Haha! I bet you do have a strainer for that! That’s so funny. I love our hostas, too–they might be my overall favorite plant. Quiet, dependable, beautiful!

  8. Lovely views you have! My summer is HECTIC!! I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and getting on the road with little to do but drive for a few days. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m not really a big fan of road trips. But there is a peace you can reach during enforced inactivity.)

    We have cottonwoods around, too, and I love them. But yes, the “snow” can be bothersome. It’s about over here.

    • I know exactly how you feel bout being in the car. Sometimes, when I’m stressed, I think, “I’ll just get in the car and go . . .,” not to escape so much as to decompress. I hope your road trip is giving you some time to do just that!

  9. Here we first have yellow snow, from the pine and spruce trees, and then locusts (as in tree, not bug) and now cotton snow, though it isn’t like it was a few years ago. We had some massive oldies around the golf course that went down a few years ago, so nothing like what you are experiencing!

  10. Spectacular sunsets! And what lovely family of geese. I don’t think we have cottonwood in central Maine. From what you have written, it’s my guess that I’d know it if we had ’em.. πŸ˜‰

    • I think I read that Vermont was the farthest north . . . but we’re at the same latitude as Portland, I think . . . I don’t know. Seeing the Canada geese and the goslings is kind of unusual. We have thousands of geese coming through but they don’t usually seem to bring the little ones by.

  11. I’d never encountered cottonwood tress until we lived in the Chicago area! I thought they were very pretty…but they weren’t in our yard!
    Just got home from Vavstuga this afternoon. What a great week! I will be processing it for some time and am mulling over what to post. She’s a bit scary and I don’t want to say anything that will offend her… The big job will be trying to convert what I learned and adapt the ideas for my jack loom. I did NOT like any of her looms; they all seemed so difficult to deal with and there were times when the 3 of us with jack looms had no idea what we were doing. I can’t remember what you have?
    (All the bad luck that made Peter stay home continues; someone ran into the truck in the motel parking lot last night and left an expensive dent.)

    • Oh, poor Peter! He’s under a dark cloud! I have been wondering about your week at Vavstuga! My experience was similar to yours, I think–we have only jack looms and, while i quite liked the ones I used there, I am most comfortable with the jack style. It did mean that a good bit of what we learned couldn’t be applied at home. On the other hand, I liked Becky’s intensity a lot and she gave me a sort of new attitude about weaving efficiently and not being intimidated by the process or problems that crop up. When you do post, I want to see your projects!

      • What I really liked was the trapeze warping process. Wow what great warps that made and my selvedges never have looked so good! Have you figured out how to do that? Us “Jack ladies” thought of doing it from the ceiling, though I work in a room with a slanted ceiling. I wondered about whether a tall coat rack would do.
        And I loved the magic cord too. That will save a lot of junk weaving…
        Intensity, for sure!

        • I have not tried the trapeze approach–that seemed too much trouble to me. I do regularly take my reed out of the beater now and sley it flat–I love that technique–and I modified some other elements. Like I’ve said, though, it’s more an attitude of fearlessness that I think I learned from Becky.

  12. I’d love to see the drifts of cottonwood seeds, but not to live with them, so thank you for the pictures. Oh, and those sunsets – just lovely.
    Summer seems to have petered out here – I’m hoping it will return very soon.

  13. I can empathise with you regarding fluff! We have lots of willow trees that drop fluff by the bucket-load in May. It covers the pond in sludge and floats about all over the place then lands, and sticks like glue. We had friends that had three black poplar trees that, like yours, covered their house and garden in fluff. Sigh!
    Your sunsets are fabulous!

    • We have willows nearby but not right on our property. I will forgive all the trees for the stuff they drop on us, because they give us so much good the rest of the year!

    • I can’t say I like the seeds but I do love the tall pretty trees! Our sunsets have been really fab this summer–not sure why. BTW, I tried, several times, to comment on your post about your finished kitchen. There was some sort of glitch every time. It looks terrific!

      • Gosh, I hope there’s nothing wrong. This comment came through fine, but that’s different. Cottonwoods are indeed beautiful and hardy. They just need water, which you have in abundance!

  14. What a beautiful place to spend summers (other than two weeks in June πŸ˜‰ ) I really thought that was a snow flurry, though my brain struggled to connect the dots. Friends just returned from Lake Tahoe where they had rain, snow and hail so anything seems possible. I wonder if that cottonwood is problematic for people with asthma? It’s so thick and prolific. I love your photos, Kerry: those stunning sunsets, the geese on the lake, and even chalk art. Summer here has been one of extremes so far: first unseasonable cool, now unseasonable hot. We have a heat advisory through the weekend with temps hoovering around 99 or hotter. I’ll bet you get wonderful breezes off that lake of yours. Ahhhhh

    • The cottonwood seems not to be a problem for most people, in terms of allergies–I read that somewhere. So at least we can be thankful for that! It has been SO windy here that a lot of the fluff has come down, along with fairly big branches and a neighbor’s tree. I honestly don’t know how you stand temps as hot as you get–I think I’d die!

      • Oh no! I’m always sorry to hear about a downed tree. Is it unusual to get those heavy winds this time of year? The heat here is brutal. I’m so irritable when we are in the worst of it. It’s like a heavy coat that you can’t throw off. We’re expecting 101 on Thursday. And the poor kitties. At least they have the good sense to nap through the worst of it.

  15. I remember well the cottonwood “snow” from back east. We have them here too, along the rivers.

    Beautiful photos, Kerry! I especially love the two chairs overlooking the lake.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s