Poplar trees are fast-growing, deciduous trees. Some are called cottonwood trees, and others are called aspen, but they are all of the same genus (Populus). These trees are popular for their attractive leaves, ability to grow quickly and their distinctive, smooth white or gray trunks. The beautiful-but-fragile shade trees suffer from a host of problems, including cankers, fungal diseases and suckers.
Populus deltoides is frequently referred to as a cottonwood tree. The wood of the tree is quite soft, and is used to make paper, boxes and other non-durable items. The eastern poplar can get quite massive, reaching heights of 100 feet or more, especially when it is planted in wet, boggy soil. The tree has flowers that appear in early spring, before the leaves. The bark of mature trees has deep furrows.
Also known as the silver poplar, Populus alba is one of the largest poplars, able to reach heights of more than 100 feet. This species is distinctive because not only does it feature grayish-cream bark, but the undersides of the dark green leaves are covered with white, silvery hairs, giving the poplar its common name. The roots of this large tree are known to clog up and interfere with underground drains, so it is not considered a desirable ornamental or shade tree.
Balm of Gilead Poplar
Populus gileadensis is native to parts of Asia and is smaller than many other types of poplar trees. The tree, which averages around 50 feet in height, has unique, sweet-smelling buds in the spring. The twigs are also pleasantly scented. Populus gileadensis is an early spring flowering tree, with the flowers, which look similar to tulips, opening as early as March in warmer climates. This tree is easily damaged by strong winds.
Populus tremuloides is one of the most common trees in North America, according to the master gardeners at Ohio State University. The tree can be as tall as 80 feet, but is usually much smaller. The quaking aspen gets its name from the appearance of the tree when a wind moves the leaves, which shimmer and spin, causing the tree to look like it is shaking or quivering. This light, fragile tree is commonly used as pulpwood.