The Cotton Tree...

Growing From the House...

An American Tree?

Present Day...

More about the Cotton Tree...

The Cotton Tree was a well-known and much-loved feature of Sunderland Point, familiar to generations of villagers and visitors alike. It finally toppled over at 8.15pm on 1st January 1998, the victim of old age and the fierce gales that struck the area on Christmas Eve, 1997. It is estimated that the Cotton Tree was between 200 and 250 years old. According to popular belief, the Cotton Tree grew from a seed imported here in a bale of cotton. Although the tree was not grown from a cotton seed, those who have seen the fluff-borne seed which it produced each spring, could easily see how such a story arose.
The tree appeared to grow from the foot of a building. Behind the tree, a little above ground level,
there is a stone lintel in the wall, bridging over the roots of the tree. In reality, the lintel seems to have been fitted in the late C19, perhaps to prevent the growing tree damaging the structure.
The Cotton Tree might actually have come from the USA. It is not a tree normally found in this part of the country, and the female is relatively uncommon in England. It is thought to have been brought here as a cutting by one of the sea captains on a return voyage from America.
The stump of the Cotton Tree has now decayed but the tree lives on in the form of two young trees which have sprung from its roots. They can be seen a few metres on either side of the lintel which marks the site of the tree and cuttings are also thriving, both at the Point and elsewhere.
The Cotton Tree is known to have been a female black poplar (Populus nigra betulifolia), a rare native species. These trees were prized for their usefulness in building, wagon-making, scaffolding and bowl-turning. Cuttings were planted around farms where the distinctive curved branches would be used for the construction of cruck-framed barns. The wood was also used for brake blocks, clogs and even arrows (a clutch was found in the Elizabethan galleon, The Mary Rose). Its heat and fire resistance made it popular for floor-boards, especially in oast-houses, and the top floor of at least one country house was made of black poplar wood to reduce the risk of the staff setting the house on fire with their candles and oil lamps.

Because of its usefulness, the early settlers are known to have taken cuttings to America, and it became established around the Hudson River. The European Black Poplar became so well established that early in the nineteenth century, American botanists mistakenly described them as native. The genuine North American black poplars are known as ‘cottonwoods’.

The timber from the tree was used by local craftsmen to produce objects of lasting interest and beauty. These have included a turned slice of the tree trunk and a pair of candle sticks incorporating some mahogany. (to reflect the Atlantic trade).
Tide tables should be consulted before visiting. Both the
Causeway and car park are likely to be under several feet of water for 1 to 2 hours before and after high tide.
The Cotton Tree around the turn of the Century
The Cotton Tree seen from the beach at Second Terrace
A slice of the Cotton Tree as it is today
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