Trembling aspen

Populus tremuloides
Trembling aspen Trembling aspen

A slender, graceful tree with smooth, greenish-white bark; grows up to 25 metres tall; distinctive leaves that quiver in the slightest breeze.

Trembling aspen leaves

Leaves
Smooth, round to triangular-shaped leaves with a flattened stalk that is longer than the leaf. They are dark green above, paler underneath and turn golden yellow or red in the fall.
Flowers
The flowers are borne in male and female catkins on separate trees. Male catkins are small, 2 to 3 centimetres long, and the female catkins are larger, 4 to 10 centimetres long.

Fruit
Tiny capsules covered with cottony down.

Trembling aspen
Trembling aspen bark Bark
Smooth, green and doesn't peel.

Where to find trembling aspen
It is found throughout the province east of the Coast Ranges, with a few scattered trees around the Strait of Georgia. Aspen is very common in the northeastern part of the province.

Habitat
Trembling aspen grows best on moist, well-drained soils, especially soils rich in calcium, such as those derived from limestone.

It is known for its ability to sprout from root suckers and form clones of many individual stems. Aspen clones can often be distinguished in spring or fall when groups of stems leaf out or change colour all at once. These clones can get quite large and can be very long-lived. Some are estimated to be over 5,000 years old.

Where to find trembling aspen
Individual aspen stems are relatively short-lived and often succumb to disease at 50 years or so. These rotten stems provide excellent homes for cavity-nesting birds. Moose, elk, and deer also eat young aspen suckers.
Uses
Aspen wood is soft and brittle and not very durable. The Shuswap people used young aspen to make tent poles, but these apparently rotted after a couple of years. Rotten wood had its uses though. The Carrier people lined babies' cradles with it because it was soft and absorbent.

Aspen branches boiled in water made a cleanser for guns, traps, and buckskins. Hunters would also wash themselves in this solution to remove human odour.

The Okanagan people predicted storms when aspen leaves quivered in no perceptible wind.

After decades of being treated as a weed, the forest industry now values aspen for pulp and waferboard. It is also exported as chopsticks.

Notes
Other names include quaking aspen or quivering aspen. In several native languages, the name translates as "woman's tongue" or "noisy leaf."

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