Populus tremuloides (Quaking Aspen)

Plant Info
Also known as: Trembling Aspen
Family:Salicaceae (Willow)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; upland forest
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:60 to 100 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of male flowers] Male and female flowers are on separate trees (dioecious) in hanging clusters (catkins) from the leaf axils of 1 year old branches. Male catkins are 1¼ to 3¼ inches long with tiers of red stamens that mature from the bottom up and are mixed with long, silky hairs. Female catkins are 1¼ to 2¼ inches long with red stigmas that are also mixed in with long silky hairs..

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate and simple with a flat leaf stalk that cause leaves to flutter in the slightest breeze. The blade is 1¼ to 3 inches long and similar in width, broadly oval to nearly round, abruptly tapered to a pointed tip, mostly rounded at the base, with very short, rounded teeth all around the edge. New leaves often have very fine, scattered silky hairs, especially along the edges but these are quickly lost. Both leaf surfaces of mature leaves are hairless, the upper surface waxy and dark green, the lower much paler.

[photo of trunk] New shoots are green and mostly smooth or briefly with very short, fine hairs. Twigs are reddish brown and shiny, the buds slender round and sharply pointed, the lateral buds often with a tip curled into the branch. Bark is thin and smooth, a creamy greenish white to nearly bright white on branches and trunk. Deeply furrowed dark gray bark forms at the base of the trunk on older trees. While Minnesota's champion tree for this species is nearly 40 inches in diameter at breast height, 24 inches or less is more typical.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] The fruits are green, round and conical capsules arranged on the long pendulous catkins. The capsules split into two halves when mature, releasing the cottony seed.


Quaking Aspen is the most abundant and widespread tree in Minnesota today and the most common Populus species in North America. The huge stands across northern Minnesota are the result of clear cutting our expansive pine forests a century ago. A pioneer species, it can spread aggressively via root suckers, eventually producing hundreds—if not thousands—of trees, covering acres, all from a single tree. Fire suppression has also allowed it to expand into historical prairie habitats were subsoil moisture is adequate to sustain it through dry periods. In the winter months its bark could be confused with other Populus species but its small, shiny and hairless buds that are not coated with resin distinguishes it from other similar species.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Aitkin counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Catherine - Eagan
on: 2019-07-25 14:51:41

I have seen these planted in Nature Center landscaping in small close clusters. Does this become a problem as the trees grow older? Would I be able to do this in my front yard? How close together can they grow?

Posted by: Luciearl - owatonna
on: 2019-08-31 03:54:42

Catherine of Eagan. I have a diverse wooded area. After blowdown, the open areas filled in with aspen (both native types). They are quite dense, although I cut a trail through them as seedlings. They will grow closely together, but eventually,thin out with storms. The DNR did a clear cut next to my property about 25 years ago. Those continue to thin out through storms, giving room for others to survive to older trees.

Posted by: Brent J Silvis - Fertile
on: 2020-09-04 07:52:40

Lots of these in the Sand Hills Recreation Area in Fertile, MN.

Posted by: Kristina Bloomquist - Saint Cloud
on: 2021-06-22 11:57:13

Just a note that in the NGL subregion, that this plant has a "FAC" indicator rather than "FACU" as it is throughout the rest of the NCNE region. This is only noted on the 2016 Corps of Engineers Plant List on page 2, and is not in the 2018 plant list.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-06-23 18:36:45

Kristina, Minnesota Wildflowers is currently using the 2018 list and doesn't delve into subregions.

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