Newhall Land – 2015 – Banner
Santa Clarita Autosound – Banner
SCV Chinese School – Banner
Adage IT – Banner
College Of The Canyons – Banner
San Diego Zoo – Generic – Banner
Simply Taylored – Banner
Brent’s Carpet One – Banner
Facey – Banner
All Americans Bail Bonds – Banner
California High Speed Rail – Palmdale – Banner
Nothing Bundt Cakes – Banner
Santa Clarita Transit – Dump the Pump – Banner
SCV Chinese School – Banner 3
Newhall Land – Banner
Galpin Motors – Banner
AV Party Rental – Banner
Beyond Harmony – Banner
Bouquet Gardens – Banner
Academy Swim Club – Banner
IHOP – Banner
Action Family Counseling – Banner
SCV Senior Center – Touch A Truck 2015 – Banner
Union Bank – Banner
SCV Chinese School – Banner 2
Valencia Town Center – Farmer’s Market – Banner
Disneyland – Diamond Celebration – Banner
Patterson’s Collision Center – Banner
Green Convergence – Sun Power – Banner
Hugo Naturals – Banner
It is forecast to be Clear at 7:00 PM PDT on May 30, 2015
Home » Santa Clarita News » Environment » SCV Outdoor Report » SCV Outdoor Report: A Fluff Piece

SCV Outdoor Report: A Fluff Piece


By Wendy Langhans

Oh look, there goes one….and there goes another…the air was full of them.  I was sitting out on my back porch, enjoying a cup of tea, literally watching the world pass by. The sky was full of tiny little white pieces of fluff, swirling past me on the ever-changing air currents.  What was going on?

The fluff was Cottonwood seeds, casting their fate to the warm spring winds.  When we think of seeds, we often picture maple seeds, with their sturdy samara (wings) or dandelion seeds, with their elegant pappus (gossamer-like umbrellas).  There’s nothing aerodynamically elegant about Cottonwood seeds.  They are borne aloft on tufts of plant fibers known as trichomes.  But trichomes are quick and easy to produce, and the Cottonwood trees produce mass quantities of seeds, which are carried for miles by air and water currents.


Cottonwood seed-pods opening to disperse seeds

As Annie Dillard wrote in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,  “Nature is, above all, profligate.” Seed production carries a metabolic cost.  For example, acorns are costly to produce.   But acorns can rely on their ample endosperm for nourishment and can be stored for long periods of time (up to 6 mo for white oaks and 3 years for red oaks).  In contrast, Cottonwood seeds, which the tree produces in seemingly wild and reckless abundance, are much easier to produce.  They’re tiny, about 1 mm in diameter, and therefore have a brief “shelf life”.  According to the U.S. Forest Service, these “seeds may remain viable for 1 to 5 weeks after dispersal” and “Viability is lost if a suitable microsite is not found within 2 or 3 days of seed becoming wet.”


Cottonwood seeds on the trail at East & Rice Canyon

With such a limited shelf life, cottonwood seeds need to land at a favorable spot to germinate and thrive – one that is not too wet and not too dry – a riparian habitat near a stream bed is ideal.  Since riparian habitats are few and far between in Southern California, cottonwood seeds must be light enough to travel for miles.  Launch time must also be favorable – at a time when the heaviest winter runoff in the streambed is beginning to recede but before the ground dries up from the heat – say – sometime in April.  Which is why the air is full of cottonwood fluff right now.

Is Annie Dillard correct:  is nature, above all, profligate?  I’m not so sure.  Given the constraints of the environment, which seed strategy would consume more of the Cottonwood tree’s limited resources – a few elegant seeds or a ginormous number of “just good enough” seeds?  Should the tree produce a few Rolls-Royce “Silver Ghosts” or a larger number of “Model T Fords”?  Perhaps Cottonwood trees aren’t so profligate, after all.  And perhaps this story isn’t just a “fluff piece”, either.

Upcoming Outdoor Events:

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. If you want to visit the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, here’s a link.

Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails.  Contact Steve at for time and place.

Wednesday mornings, April 7, 14, 21 & 28.

Saturday mornings, April 10 & 24

You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The Hike Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, click here or go to


SCV Outdoor Report: A Fluff Piece

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

About KHTS AM 1220

All American Bail Bonds – News Banner
Action Family Counseling – News Banner
Academy Swim Club – News Banner
College Of The Canyons – News Banner
AV Party Rental – News Banner
Hugo Naturals – News Banner
Beyond Harmony – News Banner
Valencia Town Center – Farmer’s Market – Tile
Green Convergence – Tile
Adage IT – Tile
Wicall’s Carpet
Union Bank – Tile
Newhall Land – 2015 – Tile