One of the joys of living in Colorado is the gorgeous gold of the aspen in fall. Other regions may boast more colorful foliage—the reds and purples of the hardwood forests to the east, for example—but nowhere else do we get the combination of cobalt blue skies, spectacular mountain scenery, and shimmering golden leaves. Such a treat is not to be missed, so we recently joined some friends and went leaf “peeping.”
What comes to mind when I describe a tree that has heart-shaped leaves, is in the poplar genus, grows well in Colorado and turns a brilliant gold in the fall? Chances are, you didn’t immediately think of cottonwoods. Yet, when it comes to putting on a show, cottonwoods are every bit as spectacular as their close kin, the aspen. In many ways, they are the other iconic Colorado tree. Find any stream, pond, or irrigation ditch, and chances are there will be at least one cottonwood growing next to it. They are riparian trees, and prefer to have their feet wet.