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Quaking AspenPopulus tremuloides

  • Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides
  • Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides
  • Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides
  • Quaking Aspen - Populus tremuloides

If there were a Guinness Book of World Records for trees, the quaking aspen would be in it - several times. First, it has the widest natural range of any tree in North America, spanning 47 degrees of latitude (equal to half the distance from the equator to the North Pole), 110 degrees of longitude (nine time zones) and elevations from sea level to timberline. It is also the largest living organism, growing in clones that reproduce primarily by sending up sprouts from their roots. And as far as the oldest ... a clone in Minnesota has been estimated to be 8,000 years old!

It is not a tree for all places. But planted in the right location, the quaking aspen is a delight of color, movement and sound.


Hardiness Zones

The quaking aspen can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 1–7. View Map

Tree Type

This tree is considered both a shade tree and an ornamental tree. It features a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight and adds visual interest and beauty to landscaping.

Mature Size

The quaking aspen grows to a height of 40–50' and a spread of 20–30' at maturity.

Growth Speed Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The quaking aspen grows well in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained and clay soils. It prefers abundant moisture.

Attributes

This tree:
  • Provides stunning yellow fall color.
  • Adds movement and a soft, pleasant sound to the landscape due to the "quaking" leaves.
  • Has smooth, greenish-white to cream bark on a long, narrow trunk.
  • Sends up sprouts from its shallow, wide-spreading roots.
  • Is used to make products such as toys, tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, clothes pins, crates and paper pulp.
  • Features rounded, triangular leaves with small teeth on the margins and arranged alternately on the branches.
  • Produces long, silvery catkins typically in April and May.
  • Yields tiny seeds that are dispersed by the wind on cottony tufts in late spring.
  • Grows in an oval shape.
  • Is one of the first trees to spring up after a forest fire.

Wildlife Value

The leaves of the quaking aspen are eaten by snowshoe hare, deer and elk. Fallen leaves are avidly taken by deer in fall and early winter. It is an important food supply and building material for beavers. Grouse depend on the buds for winter food. The tree is also a host to a myriad of birds and butterflies.

History/Lore

The slightest breeze will cause the leaves of this tree to tremble, or "quake," thus the name. The Onondagas are said to have called quaking aspen "nut-kie-e," meaning "noisy leaf." Unaided, this humble but sturdy little tree has restored many of the forests that man has destroyed and, when cultivated, has replenished many harvested forests within 50 years.

Aspen holds the title of largest living organism. The reason is that aspens grow in stands (called clones) and reproduce primarily by sending up sprouts from their roots. This means that virtually all the trees in a clone are connected. In Utah, where it serves as the state tree, one clone was observed to have 47,000 stems. It's estimated that this interlinked organism weighs 6,000 tons. And how about age records? While individual aspen trees live a vigorous 100–150 years, a clone in Minnesota has been estimated to be 8,000 years old, making it one of the oldest living things on earth.