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How to Tap Poplar Trees

There are many varieties of poplar ranging from cottonwoods to aspens. They can be found growing nearly everywhere in the United States. If you've ever parked your car beneath one of these stately trees, you know they produce copious amounts of sap. The best time to tap a poplar tree to harvest this sap is in early spring when production is at its peak. Beginning in early spring, collect sap each afternoon. Production should continue for three to four weeks.

Drill the tap hole. The hole should be roughly 3 feet off the ground and positioned on the sunniest side of the tree. Position the bit where you would like to drill the hole and apply a bit of pressure to keep it in place. Then turn the handle of the brace and drill a hole that slants upward slightly. The hole should be 1.5 to 2 inches deep.

Remove the brace. Then push the bit in and out of the hole a few times to remove wood from the hole.

Insert the spile into the hole with the lip on the bottom.

Use a hammer to gently tap the spile so that it sits securely in the hole.

Collect the sap. Cover the mouth of a 5-gallon bucket with thin wire mesh to keep out bugs and debris. Then place the bucket at the base of the tree to collect the sap. Empty it periodically.

Types Of Poplar Trees?

Poplar trees are all members of the genus Populus, a term that means "many of" in Latin. Although each species has its own characteristics, in general these trees grow fast and propagate easily, but have powerful, suckering roots that can turn a row of poplars into a gardener's nightmare. The bark on these trees typically appears as a gray or white color and shows diamond-shaped blotches that appear darker. It's considered invasive in some states. It has the same tolerance and vigor, but it also comes with the invasive roots. The tower poplar (Populus x canescens "Tower") is an alternative for planting in the same zones. These trees thrive in USDA zones 5 through 9 and live over 150 years, so think before you plant. This variety also plagues you with myriad suckers. You may notice orange resin on the bottoms of the leaves. It's a tall, elegant poplar, with the same mature height and spread as the Lombardy, but it doesn't sprout or sucker. You still don't want to place its roots anywhere near your house, however.

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