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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Fluffy? It’s summer snow!

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White fluff on rue Ste-Famille

White fluff on rue Ste-Famille

In some areas of Montreal, you might have noticed this “fluff” that has been falling up and down for at least the past three weeks. On my street, Ste-Famille, in the far McGill ghetto, these flying cotton balls have taken epic proportions, accumulating as snow would in late Fall. The only difference is that it’s 27℃ and it won’t “melt” until the next rain.

I was going to post this as a Photo du jour, but a blog entry by La Presse columnist Yves Boisvert answered some of my previously unanswered questions:

Samedi, Pierre Gingras (editor’s note: another La Presse reporter) a répondu à ma question: c’est le peuplier deltoïde. De delta, en forme de triangle, à cause des feuilles. Les français ont dû le nommer avant qu’il ne produise sa semence, sinon ils auraient fait comme les Américains et auraient retenu le plus spectaculaire, eux qui l’ont appelé Eastern Cottonwood.

It comes indeed from a tree, namely a kind of poplar! According to Boisvert’s post, three such poplars (or cottonwood trees) in Repentigny made so much “minous” that a neighbor dragged the trees’ owners to court, in the Lapointe v. Desgrobois case. The demand was rejected by the judge, who said that tree seeds don’t cause horrible inconveniences and that while one doesn’t like them, he should at least be able to tolerate them.

Maybe it’s an optical illusion, but I thought I did see this following tree on my street shedding the white puffs, which had the characteristics of a poplar:

Eastern Cottonwood?



  1. I have long sought a tree with the white fuzzies still on it to determine the culprits, but have had no luck. My nose itches just looking at those pictures.

  2. Cedric,

    Thanks so much for these great pics. True enough, it’s often hard to locate the source of the snow. As light as the silk attached to each tiny poplar seed is, the stuff can show up a long way from the source, particularly as cottonwood poplars are very tall trees, the tallest broadleafed tree in Quebec, as a matter of fact.

    That said, cottonwood poplars are usually found in allies. However, not every cottonwood produces cotton. Dioecious as they are (meaning that the sexes are on separate trees), only the female trees (those bearing fruit-producing flowers) produce the snow.

    More to come in this week’s column.

  3. I used to really enjoy seeing those white fluffs in the park adjacent to l’eglise de la Visitation next to the Prairie River.

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