Poplars require ample moisture and plenty of nutrients to grow well. They
favour floodplains and moist upland sites with lots of light. They do not grow well in the
shade of other species.
First Nations people on the coast and, more commonly, in the Interior made
dugout canoes from black cottonwood. Also, the Okanagan people made cottonwood into
sideboards for riding and cradles to flatten their children's heads.
Cottonwood burns well and was used to make friction fire sets. Ashes were used to make
a cleanser for hair and buckskin clothing. The Thompson people produced soap from the
inner bark. The Hudson's Bay Company reportedly continued using their method, combining
the inner bark with tallow.
First Nations people used the resin from buds to treat sore throats, coughs, lung pain
and rheumatism. An ointment, called balm of Gilead, was made from the winter buds of
balsam poplar to relieve congestion.
The buds contain a waxy resin with anti-infectant properties still used in many modern
natural health ointments. Bees collect it and use it to seal off intruders, such as mice,
which might decay and infect the hive.
The short, fine fibres are used in tissues and other paper products.