Populus tremuloides has magnificent and stunning golden foliage in autumn and gorgeous bark year-round. The leaves are unusually fine and make their presence known when a breeze passes by.
Quaking Aspen trunks (and all above-ground “organs”) live very short lives (usually 20 years maximum in urban areas), dying within a maximum of 150 years. It compensates for this by having extensive root systems. Quaking aspen also grow unbelievably quickly, making it an essential pioneer plant in ecosystems that have been ravaged by fires or logging. Areas “frequently” cleared out by fires give this aspen an extra edge in growth and reproduction.
Populus tremuloides (Quaking Aspen, Mountain Aspen, Golden Aspen, Aspen, Trembling Aspen, Trembling Poplar, Popple)
Hardiness Zones: 1-6
Height: to 9 meters (30 feet) in cultivation, up to 45 meters (150 feet) tall in the wild
Diameter: spreads to 9 meters (30 feet)
Growth Rate: very fast
Age: Individual, above-ground trunks (the above-ground portion) rarely live past 20 years in urban environments. Mature plants live 50-60 years at most in the eastern portion of North America; the western portion has some trees live up to 150 years. The root system can live for several thousands of years.
Root System: EXTREMELY extensive
Subspecies: none officially recognized
Tolerates: bitterly cold weather
Problems (major): Tree trunks die in a relatively short time; the root system can be troublesome if it begins asexually reproducing in large amounts. Urban pollution causes significant problems. Rusts, leaf spots, cankers, and fungal diseases can infect and destroy trunks. Poplar borer beetles frequently kill trees if they manage to infest the bark.
Problems (minor): Oystershell scale, aphids, and aspen twiggall fly can be troublesome in urban areas.
Soil requirements: moist, humusy, consistently moist, and well-drained soils required, slightly acidic soil preferred
Air Requirements: intolerant of urban pollution
Watering requirement: medium watering requirements, consistently moist
Sun requirement: Full sun necessary
Leaves: heart-shaped, finely-pointed leaves, 2-8 centimeters (1-3 inches) in diameter
Flowers: gray-green, inconspicuous 3-8 centimeters (1-3 inch) long male catkins (staminate) and female catkins (pistillate) on separate trees, bloom in April or May
Fruits: fertilized catkins 5-10 centimeters (2-4 inches) long with green capsules, contain tiny hairy seeds
Trunk: thin, white with black strips and dots, white chalk-like coating
Form: typically columnar
Seeds require stratification: yes, with consistent moisture
The bark is a beautiful white with some fine black spots or stripes. This tree is extremely resilient to a high range of temperatures, and reproduction by suckering is enormously successful when sufficient nutrients are available. The leaves, and entire upper portion of quaking aspens, sway dramatically in the wind, despite having fairly sturdy trunks. The leaves rustle loudly in the wind, leading to it being named “noisy leaf” once. A male clone in Utah is believed to have between 45,000-50,000 trunks and be around 1,000,000 years old (this estimate is very questionable).
Its wood is very important in the eastern portion of North America, as it grows very frequently all along North America. Occasionally planted as an ornamental, although suckering may be problematic in urban environments. Suckering is very helpful in forest ecosystems, especially ones which have just been cleared by logging or fire. Since these trees grow quickly, they are usually pioneers and are eventually replaced by other trees, namely conifers. Deer, hare, elk, and similar animals graze on the foliage. Butterflies and birds often come to aspens.
Pando (Latin for “I spread”):
Pando is colossus. This absolutely enormous single organism has been estimated to be around 50,000-80,000 years old. This quaking aspen has been reproducing via suckering (a common form of asexual reproduction), although it has not flowered in presumably 10,000 years (not like it needs to, though). While it cannot be measured with extreme precision, Pando is predicted to weigh around 6,000,000 kilograms (13,000,000 pounds) and cover roughly 122 acres. Pando potentially holds the records for largest single organism, heaviest single organism, and oldest single living organism.
- http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs potr5.pdf
All of the images provided were taken by me in Colorado in the Rocky Mountain range. The elevation was above 5,000 feet. These images may be used provided that this post or online journal are appropriately cited first.