There are 35 species of poplar throughout the world. The tree is fast growing and used in urban forestry projects. Poplars are able to withstand both pollution and sea salt. Eagles and ospreys use stream-side poplars for nests in the wild. Three types of poplar found in Vancouver include the black cottonwood, the balsam poplar and the quaking aspen.
Also known as the Western balsam poplar, this tree is the fastest-growing poplar. The tree grows to a height of 130 feet. The bark is yellow gray and smooth when young, cracking when older. The shoots and flowers are yellow and when the buds open, they smell like balsam, according to "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trees of the World," by Tony Russell, Catherine Cutler and Martin Walters. The leaves are heart-shaped and dark green. Male and female flowers are not borne on the same tree.
For many years, this tree was known by its Native American name, tacamahacca, according to the "Field Guide to Trees of North America" by the National Wildlife Federation. The balsam poplar grows to a height of 60 to 80 feet. The bark is dark gray-brown with flat, scaly cracks. The buds in winter are sticky and smell like honey or spicy balsam. The oval leaves are dark green. The male and female flowers are borne on separate trees in the spring.
The quaking aspen is the most widely distributed tree in North America. The tree reaches a height of 100 feet and thrives in diverse habitats. The bark is white to yellow-white with black patches. The leaves are nearly round and green, in the fall they turn yellow. The tree was named for the way its leaves flutter in the slightest breeze, according to the "Field Guide to the Trees of North America" by the National Geographic. The flowers appear in the spring on separate trees.