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Close up of the leaves of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Growth habit of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). Another species on Pacific Northwest native tree available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants in Portland, Oregon.
Grove of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). Another species on Pacific Northwest native tree available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants in Portland, Oregon.
Buds and catkin flowers of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides). Another species on Pacific Northwest native tree available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants in Portland, Oregon.

Quaking Aspen

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Populus tremuloides

There are few things more serene than laying on your back, in the dappled shade of a mature quaking aspen, listening to the quiet rustle of its bright green leaves in the summer breeze. This tree is as beautiful as they come; smooth light-gray bark, branches adorn with dangling, distinct male or female catkin flowers each spring, and iconically trembling leaves that shift into stunning golden hues each fall. 

  • Plant type/canopy layer: large, deciduous tree  
  • Size at maturity: 40-50' tall, 20-25' wide
  • Light requirements: full sun
  • Moisture requirements: moist soil
  • Bloom time: March - May
  • Growth rate/ease: fast growing, easy to grow
  • Wildlife support: new growth, leaves and bark are important browsing materials for deer, elk, moose, and many small animals like rabbits, porcupines, and beaver. This is also a choice material for beaver lodges. They can take down 200 stems a year, dragging the material up to 400 ft! It is also a caterpillar host plant, a larval food source, and is generally attractive to many species of insects, which in turn supports an abundance of birds for feeding, including hummingbirds and woodpeckers.
  • Native habitat/range: common in wet to dry, open and closed woodlands and forests, edges of meadows and prairies, talus-slopes and canyon-heads, and sites of human disturbance such as timber cuts, mine tailings, gravel pits, quarries, roadsides from 0 - 9000ft across much of the northern United States and Canada. Portland Plant List - yes
  • Special features & uses: landscape uses include raingardens and edges of large meadowscapes, for erosion control and in hedgerows and windbreaks; human uses include timber for items like crates, pallets, wood shavings, matchsticks, tongue depressors, and pellets for fuel and pulp for paper - partricularly in the northeastern USA where it is more abundant.

Gardening with Quaking Aspen: This attractive, no-fuss tree will thrive in full sun areas with moist soils. In its wild environment, you’ll see quaking aspen spreading to form incredibly picturesque groves. These aggressive, rhizomatous roots make it an excellent choice for managing erosion and establishing windbreaks on large properties. But it should be avoided, or planted with a root barrier, in smaller urban yards and near sewers, drainage systems or other utilities.

Photo Credit 1 & 2: "Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen) (Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado, USA) 5" by James St. John is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit 3: "Quaking Aspen" by ZionNPS is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit 4: "Populus tremuloides" by Matt Lavin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0