Poplar trees, like all trees, have bad characteristics along with the good, according to the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service. Though certain traits may appear to be beneficial, they may actually present a problem. Also, the susceptibility of poplar trees to certain pests and diseases is a problem that may cause you to rethink choosing a poplar tree for your garden or, at least, know what to look out for while caring for poplars.
Growth Rate and Life Span
Problems with poplar trees include issues with growth rate and life span. According to the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, the rapid growth rate of poplar trees is often considered a positive trait; however, a rapid growth rate with poplars also means a shorter life span. These short-lived trees generally have a life expectancy of no longer than 20 years. Often infected by disease at an age of 10 to 15 years, secondary problems arise in association with growth rate and short life span.
Poplar trees are susceptible to a number of diseases, according to the North Dakota State University Agriculture and University Extension. Diseases include septoria leaf spot (Septoria musiva) and marssonina leaf spot (Marssonina) that causes spots on leaves and is controlled with the fungicide chlorothalonil; rust fungal infection (Malampsora medusae) that causes the appearance of rust on leaves and is controlled by protectant fungicides with the active ingredient triforine; canker infection, the most problematic disease of poplars (fungi: Cytospora, Phomopsis, Septoria and Dothichiza), causes cankers (dead areas of poplar trees) and is controlled by pruning and fungicides such as chlorothalonil (depending upon the particular fungus infecting your poplar).
Pests of the poplar tree such as poplar borers (Saperda calcarata) pose a problem to the health and vigor of the poplar tree. Poplar borers are dark gray in color with small orange spots; measuring approximately 1 inch in length, poplar borers also display antennae approximately 1 inch in length, according to the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. Weakened or over-mature trees are the most susceptible. Poplar borers create cuts in the bark of poplar and lay eggs within the spaces during the summer season. Larvae hatch after two weeks, infest heartwood, remain for two to five years and exit as adults. Poplar trees with borer infestations display symptoms including stained bark, the appearance of red sap on the trunk, overall decline and death for smaller trees. Practice proper maintenance of your poplar tree to keep it vigorous and more capable of fighting infestation. Also, applications of insecticides during the laying or hatching of eggs provides chemical control. Look for borer insecticides including carbaryl, acephate, dimethoate and permethrin, as suggested by the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.