Posts: 444
Registered: ‎12-18-2009

Cottonwood and Poplar the same thing??

I was checking out a link that Matt posted for an urban saw mill.  I saw that they listed Poplar and Cottonwood as the same thing on their hard wood inventory list.  When I look at the hard wood list for the mill I use, they just list Cottonwood and they don't list Poplar at all.  Are these woods one of the same or is there a difference between them?

Esteemed Advisor
Posts: 2,977
Registered: ‎10-23-2009

Re: Cottonwood and Poplar the same thing??

Probably about the same. They both are part of the willow family. I think they mostly are used  for making paper.? Poplar is good for drawers making.



Community Manager
Posts: 5,409
Registered: ‎10-23-2009

Re: Cottonwood and Poplar the same thing??

They're kinda/sorta similar in hardness and have a similar look/feel to them.   I wouldn't generally expect to see them as interchangable species at a commercial lumber mill, but for urban sourced wood they're swappable in a lot of instances.


Matt Seiler
Wood Online Moderator

Honored Advisor
JL North GA
Posts: 1,666
Registered: ‎10-23-2009

Re: Cottonwood and Poplar the same thing??

I'll argue with the others.

Cottonwood is a variant of Populus - which includes aspen, cottonwood and poplar.


The other poplar is Liriodendron tulipifera - the tulip poplar.  This poplar has the black/green/brown streaks and coloration.  Around here (North GA) - that is the poplar that we use.  The tulip poplar lumber is the one that is typically sold as poplar.  It is a little harder and not as "fuzzy" as cottonwood.

Senior Contributor
Allen O.
Posts: 245
Registered: ‎10-25-2009

Re: Cottonwood and Poplar the same thing??

Cottonwood and white poplar are both members of the populus genus.  These woods, especially cottonwood are not what I would call "quality" woods.  I see them used in rough construction like for pallets or packing crates.  It warps readily and is not especially stable.  However, don't confuse either of these with what you sometimes see advertised at the BORG as "poplar".  What they call "poplar" is usually tulip, or yellow poplar but it is not in the same genus as true poplar and is in the Liriodendron genus.  This wood is a very stable, takes paint easily and is used in areas where it will not show, such as interior case pieces.  It ranges in color from white to cream to greenish-khaki colored.


Willow is similar to cottonwood in that it is very lightweight and not escpecially good for finish uses, but it is in the salix genus and not closely related to either cottonwood or white poplar.

Allen O.
"Today's mighty oak is nothing more than yesterday's little nut that held it's ground."
Veteran Advisor
Posts: 1,687
Registered: ‎11-03-2009

Re: Cottonwood and Poplar the same thing??

+1 on Allen o's comment. Cottonwood is a miserable wood to work with and if yo do finally find straight pieces they have no character that would make it useful for woodworking. It also absorbs water like a sponge and rots rather quickly.

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