The Old Lady by the River still standing tall

Posted 2021-09-15

The Old Lady by the River still standing tall

She has been on the bank of the Sacramento River between 130 and 150 years. We don't know for sure, as she isn't talking. Her bark is thick and deeply fissured, and she stands 90 to 100 feet tall.

She is a female Fremont cottonwood tree. She is covered with burls, which could have developed because of environmental injury caused by beaver damage to her trunk many years ago, which is evident in the picture. The exact cause of burls is a bit of a mystery. Burls are used in furniture, artwork and bowls. Each burl is totally unique and different and highly prized. To get some perspective on how old this cottonwood tree is, think about this. When she was a seedling, the Nomlaki and Yana Indian tribes still roamed this area. To Native Americans the cottonwood tree was extremely important for shade. When she was a sapling, the only way to cross the river near the growing settlement of Red Bluff was on the Adobe Ferry situated near what is now the tourist attraction known as the Ide Adobe. The other ferries in this area at that time were Jelly's Ferry near the Bend and Balls Ferry near Anderson.

The ferry was the only way people and goods could cross the river. The tree was a young adult when the Red Bluff bridge was built in 1900.

She was still a young tree when Red Bluff was incorporated and became a thriving town, as it was then the head of navigation on the Sacramento River.

Soon this all changed,

of course, when the railroad came in. The lady tree could now hear train whistles in the distance from her riverbank home. Our cottonwood tree was on the river bank during all of this change and still growing.

As a young tree, she also survived the great flooding of Antelope Valley in 1890. So many events in our local history she has lived through and to this day she is still standing.

All of these years she has silently watched the boats and the fishermen on the river go by, although if one walked by this impressive lady, they could possibly hear the murmur and rustling of her leaves. Oh the stories the Old Lady could tell, but never will.

The cottonwood tree is much maligned because of the fluffy white substance that covers the seeds. Only the female tree produces the white fluff or so called cotton. This develops in early summer and is dispersed by the wind. It almost looks like a blanket of summer snow. The soft fluff seems to get everywhere and can accumulate in yards and block up drains and gutters.

People with hay fever think this fluff causes their sneezing and runny nose, however, it is the pollen from the male cottonwood tree that causes the majority of hay fever symptoms.

Only the male tree produces pollen.

The cottonwood is one of the most important species to wildlife. The beavers use it for dams and lodges and eat the bark for food.

Rabbits and deer feed on the tree shoots and stems.

When a tree starts to die, it is used by over 40 animal species for nesting and roosting. Cottonwood trees stabilize stream beds and provide habitat for fish. Because of the nature of its wood density, the timber is often used as a cheap type of hardwood.

Kudos to you Old Lady By the River, keep standing tall.

Red Bluff Garden Club meets at 12:30 p.m. the last Tuesday of the month at the Methodist Church, 525 David Ave. Red Bluff. Visitors are welcome.

The Red Bluff Garden Club is a member of Cascade District, California Garden Clubs, Inc., Pacific Region Garden Clubs, Inc. and National Garden Clubs, Inc.

Past and present members of Red Bluff Garden Club pause beside an ancient, majestic Fremont cottonwood tree. Pictured, from left, are Shirley Felder, Diane Cleland, Judy Fitzgerald, Cathy Wilson and Sharon Eliggi.

Copyright (c)2021 Red Bluff Daily News, Edition 9/16/2021

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