Populus alba (White Poplar)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; urban landscapes, parks, farmsteads, mesic woods|
|Bloom season:||April - May|
|Plant height:||40 to 80 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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 2½ inches long with tiers of red stamens mixed with soft silky hairs. Female catkins are 2 to 4 inches long with each flower having a 2-lobed stigma.
Leaves and bark:
Leaves are alternate and simple with a slightly flattened leaf stalk, the blade 1½ to 3 inches long and about as wide, variable in shape. On short branches leaves are nearly round to egg-shaped with coarse rounded lobes or teeth along margins. On root suckers and long shoots, leaves are palmately 3 to 5-lobed, often looking much like a maple leaf in form. The upper leaf surface is dark green and shiny, the lower surface is bright white from dense woolly hairs.
Twigs are white with a dense, wooly covering, light green beneath. Buds are small, less than ¼ inch long, round and conical, reddish brown under dense, white hairs.Bark is smooth and thin, creamy white to greenish gray on younger branches and the upper trunk, often with dark diamond shaped lenticels (pores), the lower portion of the trunk has dark vertical ridges with deep furrows between. Specimens with a diameter at breast height of over 5 feet have been reported but 24 inches or less is more typical.
Fruits is a green, narrowly conical capsule on the long pendulous catkins. When mature the capsule splits into two halves, releasing the cottony seed.
An early European introduction, White Poplar has moved from urban and farmstead plantings into natural forest habitats. It is a fast growing, short lived tree with weak wood. It suckers freely from the roots, forming clonal stands and is considered invasive in both North America and Australia. A columnar form called Bolleana Poplar is still sold in the nursery trade but in Minnesota it is subject to sunscald, canker and winter dieback and is now rarely seen. The densely woolly and white undersides of the leaves distinguish it from any other tree species, though the palmately lobed trees have been misidentified by more than a few uninformed as silver maple.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- White Poplar tree
- diamond-shaped lenticels
- upper trunk and branches
- root suckers in spring
- twig, bud and leaf scar
- more leaves
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?