I have found a great grove of Cottonwoods in a local Public Park. The trees are beautiful, a challenge to get into and have a very open canopy to play in. The only problem is, every time I get in them, I can't help but question the species.
I've done a bit of research only to discover that they are "notorious for breaking".
Aside from some pieces of bark in my eye, I've had no trouble, The branches seem sturdy, the base of the tree, solid and happy. I can, kind of, ignore the thoughts of carpenters and landscapers, as their professions deal in different stresses over different times than tree climbing. But I still think twice, and only climb on branches ten inches or more in diameter.
My questions are: does anyone have any experience climbing these? Should I stop, or am I being over-cautious in only climbing on very large branches? Does anyone have any other information regarding these?
I'd avoid Eastern Cottonwood also known as Eastern Poplar (Populus deltoides), Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila), Willows (Salicaceae), and Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) to name a few. All of these have varying degrees of brittle, weak wood at the dangerous end of the spectrum, opposite the Oaks, Ash, Locust, Hickory, Sweet Gum, Tupelo, and even Maples and Tulip. Many coniferous trees hold up better than those four, yet the no less than 10" rule is a good one in any conifer.
If you climb in these your rule of no less than 10" diameter is a good rule 'only if the specimen is healthy, intact, and without latent defects'. There are millions of climbable trees without climbing these poor-quality-wood species.
Overly cautious I may be but after 28 years in trees I am still afraid of the trees, afraid of my chainsaws, and definitely frightened by gravity. Complacency leads to risk-taking
I have to admit I really enjoy climbing Eastern Cottonwood. Chad I think you're taking the right approach by being cautious. Do a careful assessment of the tree before climbing as mentioned, tie into nice wide limbs close to the branch/trunk union.