Winter Tree ID: Quaking Poplar

Photo of Quaking Poplar leaf margin

During the green season, my ears will often notice Quaking Poplar (Populus tremuloides) before my eyes have. Even a light breeze causes leaves to shiver, or quake, on their flattened leaf stalks, and these movements produce a pleasing poplar song. In the white season, Quaking Poplar is rather quiet, but various visual clues help this tree to stand out.

From a distance, the smooth, whitish or even greenish bark of Quaking Poplar stands out. The base of older trees may be anything but smooth, but clean-looking bark can often be seen simply by looking up. Smooth sections at eye-level are great places to look for the claw marks of mammals.

Winter buds are brown, shiny and typically pressed up against the twigs, as opposed to the hairy buds of Big-toothed Poplar (P. grandidentata) which tend to stick out. Check for clinging or fallen leaves which are triangular to nearly round, with shallowly toothed margins and stalks that are flattened where they meet the leaf blade.

Quaking Aspen can spread by underground rhizomes and is therefore often found in colonies. You may know this species by one of several other common names, including Quaking Aspen, Trembling Aspen/Poplar, or just plain Popple. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)

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