Eastern cottonwood

  • Eastern cottonwoods, fall.
  • Eastern cotton woods, summer.
  • Cottonwoods and Donald Judd's untitled works in concrete .
  • Cottonwood leaves.
  • Eastern cottonwoods.

Who doesn’t love a tree?

Along the eastern edge of Chinati’s property line is a very long row of Eastern cottonwood trees planted by Donald Judd in the early 1980s. In summer, they create a long, vertical green backdrop to Donald Judd’s untitled works in concrete. Their leaves turn bright yellow in late fall and will be gone by winter. The trees’ bare, skeletal branches create a gray band, adding a new color along Chinati’s edge.

Eastern cottonwoods are part of the poplar family and they are the fastest growing tree in North America. These trees can reach more than 100 feet in height, with trunks spanning five feet across. They are known for their billowy seeds that are attached to cottony white strands and they grow well along water sources. Indigenous people and early settlers knew the sight of a cottonwood was a sure sign of water nearby!

Though the Eastern cottonwood is native to North America, it is not of this region. As these trees gradually falter and die off, Chinati plans to repopulate the line with the native variety, the Rio Grande cottonwood, thereby preserving the artist’s vision of his work amid the landscape.

If a tree could speak, what would it say? What would its voice sound like? Write a dialogue between yourself and the tree. Can you ask a friend to help you perform the dialogue?