Populus tremuloides

Populus tremuloides

name = Quaking or Trembling Aspen

image_width = 240px
image_caption = Quaking Aspen grove
regnum = Plantae
divisio = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Malpighiales
familia = Salicaceae
genus = "Populus"
sectio = "Populus"
species = "P. tremuloides"
binomial = "Populus tremuloides"
binomial_authority = Michx.

"Populus tremuloides", also known as American Aspen, Quaking Aspen, Trembling Aspen, Quakies, Quakers, Popple, Golden Aspen, Mountain Aspen, Poplar, Trembling Poplar, Álamo Blanco, and Álamo Temblón, is a deciduous tree native to cooler areas of North America.


The name references the quaking or trembling of the leaves that occurs in even a slight breeze due to the flattened petioles. Other species of "Populus" have petioles flattened partially along their length, while the Quaking Aspen's are flattened from side to side along the entire length of the petiole. This quaking of the leaves produces a soft sound that many consider a hallmark of the Quaking Aspen. Can be found in most parts of North America.


It is a tall, fast growing tree, usually convert|20|–|25|m|ft at maturity, with a trunk convert|20|–|80|cm|in in diameter; records are convert|36.5|m|ft in height and convert|1.37|m|ft in diameter.Fact|date=July 2008

The bark is relatively smooth greenish-white to gray and is marked by thick black horizontal scars and prominent black knots.

The leaves on mature trees are nearly round, convert|4|–|8|cm|in in diameter with small rounded teeth, and a convert|3|–|7|cm|in long, flattened petiole. Young trees (including root sprouts) have much larger—convert|10|–|20|cm|in long—nearly triangular leaves.

The flowers are catkins convert|4|–|6|cm|in long, produced in early spring before the leaves; it is dioecious, with male and female catkins on different trees. The fruit is a convert|10|cm|in|adj=on long pendulous string of convert|6|mm|in|adj=on capsules, each capsule containing about ten minute seeds embedded in cottony fluff, which aids wind dispersal of the seeds when they are mature in early summer.


The northern limit is determined by its intolerance of permafrost. In Alaska, it can be found as far north as the southern slopes of the Brooks Range. It occurs across Canada in all provinces and territories, with the possible exception of Nunavut. In the United States, it occurs at low elevations as far south as northern Nebraska and central Indiana. Farther west, it grows at high altitudes as far south as Guanajuato, Mexico. In the western United States, this tree rarely survives at elevations lower than convert|1500|ft|m due to the mild winters experienced below that elevation, and is generally found at convert|5000|–|12000|ft|m.

Shrub-like dwarf clones exist in marginal environments too cold and dry to be hospitable to full-size trees, for example at the species' upper elevation limits in the White Mountains.


It propagates itself primarily through root sprouts, and extensive clonal colonies are common. Each colony is its own clone, and all trees in the clone have identical characteristics and share a single root structure. A clone may turn color earlier or later in the fall than its neighbouring aspen clones. Fall colors are usually bright tones of yellow; in some areas, red blushes may be occasionally seen. As all trees in a given clonal colony are considered part of the same organism, one clonal colony, named Pando, is considered the heaviestGenetic Variation and the Natural History of Quaking Aspen, Jeffry B. Mitton; Michael C. Grant, "BioScience", Vol. 46, No. 1. (Jan., 1996), pp. 25-31.] and oldest [ [http://www.nps.gov/brca/quaking_aspen.html Quaking Aspen] by the Bryce Canyon National Park Service] living organism at six million kilograms and approximately 80,000 years old. Aspens do produce seeds, but seldom grow from them. Pollination is inhibited by the fact that aspens are either male or female, and large stands are usually all clones of the same sex. Even if pollinated, the small seeds (three million per pound) are only viable a short time as they lack a stored food source or a protective coating. [Ewing, Susan. The Great Alaska Nature Factbook. Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 1996.]


Beginning in 1996, individual North American scientists noticed an increase in dead or dying aspen trees. As this accelerated, in 2004, word spread and a debate over causes began. No insect, disease, or environmental condition is yet specifically identified as a joint cause. Trees adjacent to one another are often stricken or not. In other instances entire groves have died.

Many areas of the Western US have experienced increased diebacks which are often attributed to ungulate grazing and wildfire suppression. At high altitudes where grasses can be rare, ungulates can browse young aspen sprouts and prevent those young trees from reaching maturity. As a result, some aspen groves in close proximity to cattle or other grazing animals, such as deer or elk, have very few young trees and can be invaded by conifers, which are not typically browsed. Another possible deterrent to aspen regeneration is widespread wildfire suppression. Aspens are vigorous resprouters and even though the above-ground portion of the organism may die in a wildfire, the roots, which are often protected from lethal temperatures during a fire, will sprout new trees soon after a fire. Disturbances such as fires seem to be a necessary ecological event in order for aspens to compete with conifers, which tend to replace aspen over long, disturbance free intervals. The current dieback in the American West may have roots in the strict fire suppression policy in the United States.

Because of the vegetative regeneration method of reproduction used by the aspen, where an entire group of trees are essentially clones, there is a concern that something that hits one will eventually kill all of the trees, presuming they share the same vulnerability. A conference was held in Utah in September 2006 to share notes and consider investigative methodology. [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/26/science/earth/26aspen.html]


Aspen bark contains a substance that was extracted by Native Americans and the pioneers of the American West as a quinine substitute. [Ewing, Susan. The Great Alaska Nature Factbook. Portland: Alaska Northwest Books, 1996.]

The leaves of the Quaking Aspen serve as food for caterpillars of various Lepidoptera. See List of Lepidoptera that feed on poplars.


[http://www.nps.gov/brca/naturescience/quakingaspen.htm Quaking Aspen]


* [http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_2/populus/tremuloides.htm US Forest Service Silvics Manual: "Populus tremuloides"]
* [http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/poptre/ US Forest Service Fire Effects Information System: "Populus tremuloides"]
*ITIS|ID=195773|taxon=Populus tremuloides|year=2006|date=8 August
*Farrar, John Laird. "Trees In Canada". Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1995
*Hickman, James C., ed. "The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California", 0520082559. University of California Press, 1993.

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