Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa




  • Populus balsamifera ssp. balsamifera
  • Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa

Origin Status: Native [E-flora]


"Populus trichocarpa is a deciduous Tree growing to 40 m (131ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen from May to June. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is not self-fertile. [PFAF]
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

General: Dioecious tree up to 50 m tall; not colonial; branches brown the first year, turning grey later; twigs smooth or sparsely hairy. [IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: Alternate, deciduous, simple, narrowly to broadly egg-shaped or lanceolate, 5-20 cm long, 3-12 cm wide, the bases tapered to heart-shaped or squared-off smooth, finely toothed and hairy on the margins, the teeth often tipped with a callous gland, lower side whitish or pale green and brownish; leaf stalks 2-10 cm long, often with a pair of glands near the blade; buds finely hairy with fringed scales. [IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: Borne in catkins; male catkins 2-3 (5) cm long, soon deciduous, with 8-60 stamens; female catkins 8-20 cm long. [IFBC-E-flora]
Fruits: Capsules, broadly egg-shaped, carpels 2-3, smooth or hairy, nearly unstalked. [IFBC-E-flora]
Two subspecies occur in BC. The hybrids P. angustifolia James x P. balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa (P. x brayshawii Boivin) and P. balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa x P. nigra L. var. italica DuRoi are rare in BC .
1. Ovaries and capsules smooth; leaves pale green and brownish beneath.................... ssp. balsamifera
1. Ovaries and young capsules hairy; leaves whitish beneath.................... ssp. trichocarp (T. & G.) Brayshaw [IFBC-E-flora]
USDA Flower Colour: Yellow
USDA Blooming Period: Mid-Spring
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:

Colour: White
Present over the Spring [USDA-E-flora]

Habitat / Range

Moist uplands and floodplains in the montane zone; ssp. balsamifera - common in N and E BC; ssp. trichocarpa - common throughout BC except rare on Queen Charlotte Islands; ssp. balsamifera - N to YT, AK and NT, E to NF and S to NY, VA, IL, IA, CO, ID and OR; ssp. trichocarpa - N to S AK and YT, E to SW AB and S to ND, WY, UT, NV and CA. [IFBC-E-flora]

Edible Uses

Other Uses




"A very easily grown plant, it does well in a heavy cold damp soil[1]. Prefers a deep rich well-drained circumneutral soil, growing best in the south and east of Britain[11, 200]. Growth is much less on wet soils, on poor acid soils and on thin dry soils[11] but this species is more tolerant of acid soils than other members of the genus[11]. It dislikes shade and is intolerant of root or branch competition[11, 200]. Plants are reasonably wind resistant, but they do not grow well in exposed upland sites[11]. Many forms of this species are susceptible to bacterial canker, the female clone 'Fritzi Pauley' is resistant[11, 200]. A very fast growing[11] and ornamental tree[1], it does well in western Britain where trees have reached 25 metres tall in 20 years[11]. The leaf buds, as they swell in the spring, and the young leaves have a pleasing fragrance of balsam[245]. The fragrance is especially pronounced as the leaves unfold[245]. Poplars have very extensive and aggressive root systems that can invade and damage drainage systems. Especially when grown on clay soils, they should not be planted within 12 metres of buildings since the root system can damage the building's foundations by drying out the soil[11]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required." [PFAF]

Wildlife: Populus catkins, buds, leaves, and shoots are browse for moose and rabbits. American Medicinal Plants notes that quaking aspen shoots and leaves are gathered in Sweden and fed to domestic sheep in winter. Trappers often use quaking aspen as bait in beaver sets. Bees chew the resins of poplar and other trees, mix them with their enzymes, and regurgitate as bee glue. [Schofield]

"Seed - must be sown as soon as it is ripe in spring[113]. Poplar seed has an extremely short period of viability and needs to be sown within a few days of ripening[200]. Surface sow or just lightly cover the seed in trays in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the old frame. If sufficient growth is made, it might be possible to plant them out in late summer into their permanent positions, otherwise keep them in the cold frame until the following late spring and then plant them out. Most poplar species hybridize freely with each other, so the seed may not come true unless it is collected from the wild in areas with no other poplar species growing[11]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, 20 - 40cm long, November/December in a sheltered outdoor bed or direct into their permanent positions. Very easy. Suckers in early spring[78]." [PFAF]


Uses of Other Species


  1. [E-flora]http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Populus balsamifera&redblue=Both&lifeform=2, Accessed Jan 12, 2015
  2. [Holloway]Ethnobotany of the Fort Yukon Region, Alaska, PATRICIA S. HOLLOWAY2 AND GINNV ALEXANDER, Economic Botany, 44(2), 1990
  3. [PFAF]http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Populus+trichocarpa, Accessed Jan 12, 2015

Page last modified on Monday, September 25, 2017 9:08 AM