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Silver Poplar Tree Diseases

By John Lindell ; Updated September 21, 2017

The silver poplar, also known as white poplar, is a nonnative tree species that comes from Europe and Asia. Silver poplar is a popular ornamental tree that features leaves that are green above and white underneath. Its silvery bark makes it especially attractive, and the species can grow to be between 50 and 70 feet tall. Silver poplar is at risk from certain diseases that can affect its leaves, branches and trunk.

Powdery Mildew

One common disease of silver poplars is powdery mildew, a fungal ailment that crops up usually when the weather conditions are warm and somewhat dry. The fungus that attacks the leaves of the poplar causes them to have a white coating on them, typically on the top side of the leaves. The leaves suffering from powdery mildew may appear distorted and fall off the poplar prematurely. In some instances, the buds and flowers of the silver poplar may show signs of powdery mildew, with buds infected with the fungus sometimes never opening. While powdery mildew can result in hurting the appearance of a sliver poplar, it rarely does significant damage to the overall health of the tree. One of the best ways to prevent a return of powdery mildew is to clean up all the debris underneath your silver poplar because the fungi will survive through the winter months in the fallen leaves and twigs, infecting the tree again in the spring as wind and splashing raindrops carry it airborne.

Marssonia Leaf Spot

According to the University of Illinois Extension website, a disease called Marssonia leaf spot can precipitate brown spots on the leaves of a silver poplar. The fungus responsible can spend the cold winter months under the tree in the dead litter from the previous year. It then will release spores in the springtime that have the capacity to infect the surrounding trees, getting onto the leaves as they first appear. In most cases, the lower branches will show the effects of this disease before the higher ones will. The entire tree can lose its leaves by August in some cases of Marssonia leaf spot. Some poplars will grow new leaves right away, but this puts a strain on the tree, leaving it vulnerable to other diseases that it could normally fight off. A tree that does lose all its leaves will normally not produce as much new wood for one to two years afterward.

Wood Rot

Wood rot is a serious problem, not only for silver poplar but also for many kinds of trees. The fungi that bring this malady about will produce fruiting structures of different textures on the poplar, usually near its base. The fungus goes to work on the internal parts of the tree. They can rot it in some instances without the tree ever showing any external symptoms except for the presence of the fungi bodies. A number of different fungi can bring about wood rot, and their life cycles vary. Any silver poplar that shows signs of these fungi should be closely monitored because it could come down in adverse weather without warning.


About the Author


John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.