What Is a Hybrid Poplar?


Hybrid poplar trees (Populus deltoides x Populus nigra) can grow between 5 and 10 feet annually. In as short a period as six years, hybrid poplars can grow to 60 feet tall, and some hybrid poplar trees ultimately grow to be over 100 feet in height. These trees usually live for at least 40 years. As with all hybrids, these trees are produced when one species' pollen is used for the fertilization of another.


Hybrid poplars are part of the Populus genus, which is also includes aspens and cottonwoods. Upon maturity, the trees usually grow to be between 40 and 60 feet in height and between 20 and 35 feet in width. Their leaves are a moderate to deep green color, and occasionally have a silvery-green look. During the autumn, the leaves turn yellow. The leaves are arranged alternately, and have coarse edges.


Hybrid poplar trees are part of the willow family. They are hybrids of Europe's poplar trees and North America's aspens and cottonwood trees. Poplar trees were in use in Europe as windbreaks and hybridized (as a cross between a North American and European species) in the United Kingdom in 1912. Planting hybrid trees became increasingly popular in the seventies.

Benefits and Disadvantages

Their growth rate is among the benefits of the cultivation of Hybrid Poplar trees. These trees grow between 6 and 10 times quicker than similar species, which results in faster economic returns for tree farmers. It is also very simple to plant these trees. They can be planted with the use of an unrooted dormant cutting. They are also wind resistant. One disadvantage of hybrid poplars is their relatively shallow roots, which can lead to breaking up of residential sidewalks and short lifespans.

Commercial Use

Hybrid Poplars can be used to produce engineered lumber products, including structural lumber and strand board. They are used for pulpwood; they are a reliable substitute for aspen.

Other Uses

Planting and promoting the cultivation of Hybrid Poplar trees can stabilize (with its rapid growing and invasive root system) agricultural lands and stream banks by defending soil from wind erosion. As a result, they increase wildlife habitation in the area. Poplar windbreaks protect fields.


Hybrid Poplar trees are good phytoremediators because they can degrade and absorb organic contaminants. Phytoremediation involves treating environmental issues (known as bioremediation) via the use of plants. Phytoremediators mitigate these environmental issues without having to eliminate the contaminant substances and get rid of them somewhere else. Hybrid Poplar trees are able to naturally clean up and clear out waste that is toxic.


Hybrid Poplar trees can be problematic when planted in parks and yards, as they are prone to fungal leaf spots that can defoliate them within a season. They are also prone to developing cankers that can destroy them entirely within a few years. Some diseases that could affect these trees include slime flux, septoria leaf spot, septoria canker, shoot blight and verticillium wilt.

Keywords: hybrid poplar trees, phytoremediators, willow trees

About this Author

Isabel Prontes is a freelance writer and traveler residing in Manhattan, NY. She has traveled to five continents and counting. Her work has appeared on a number of websites, such as Travels, eHow.com and "Happy Living Magazine." Prontes has a professional background in public relations; she received a bachelor's degree in communication studies from Pace University.