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Poplar Trees | Populus Trees

Populus trees, more commonly known as Poplar trees are part of the Salicaceae (Willow) family and are native to North America. The name Populus comes from the fact that the trees were often planted around public meeting places during Roman times. The 35 different species of Populus can be divided into three main groups: the cottonwoods, the aspens, and the balsam poplars.


How to recognise a Poplar tree

Populus trees have a smooth bark when young, displaying shades of white, pale green and sometimes dark grey, and often have visible lenticels, which act as a type of pore, providing an airway for the exchange of gases between the internal tissues and the atmosphere. On more mature trees, the bark usually becomes rough, developing deeper fissures and cracks.

The attractive foliage of Poplar trees displays various shades of green on the upper side of the leaves, whereas the underside boasts ghostly silver hues. These multi-toned leaves turn a warm golden yellow colour in autumn before falling in the winter. Before these leaves emerge, flowers appear as drooping catkins in early spring, followed by small fruits which mature before the leaves are fully grown. Many varieties of Poplar are grown as ornamental trees, due to their considerably fast growth rate and their interesting foliage and pretty catkins.


Common uses of Poplar trees

  • Poplar wood can be used to produce chopsticks
  • Widely used for the manufacture of paper
  • Sold as inexpensive hardwood timber, used for pallets and cheap plywood
  • Used for matches
  • Poplar wood is also used in the snowboard industry for the snowboard core, because of its flexibility
  • Sometimes used in the bodies of electric guitars and drums


Poplar trees in history and mythology

  • The wood was used in the making of shields
  • The Mona Lisa and most famous early Renaissance Italian paintings are on Poplar
  • It is commonly referred to as the talking, whispering and quivering tree
  • Hercules wore a crown of Poplar leaves when he retrieved Cerberus from Hades, and it’s now said that the top of the leaves are darker than the bottom due to Hades' smokey fumes
  • Some folklore say Poplar wood was used to construct Christ's cross and that the leaves of the tree quiver when they remember. It’s true that the leaves appear to tremble, even in the slightest wind, but this is because of their dense petioles (the small stalk attaching the leaf to the stem)


If you're looking for a tree steeped in history and mythology that can make a wonderful focal feature in any garden, Poplar trees are the perfect choice. Suited to most soils, you won’t struggle to find a planting site for this tree, and with a large selection of different sizes and varieties, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes.

Poplar Trees | Populus Trees
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