Chances are that the books on your nightstand might have started out as Populus tremuloides. The tall, smooth tree is a relatively fast grower, so popular with pulp and paper mills. This sun-loving tree is often one of the first deciduous trees to regenerate areas decimated by fire, in part due to its underground root suckers. Those suckers can clone huge colonies of trees, which continually regrow from their roots, marking some of them as among the oldest living organisms on earth.
Have you guessed its name yet? How about a few more clues…
This tree is found everywhere in Canada, except the northernmost regions, due to its intolerance of permafrost. It grows to approximately 25 metres tall, with smooth grayish/greenish-white bark marked by dark horizontal lines. It produces green dioecious (trees are either male or female) catkins before leaves emerge. By early summer, the fruit matures into tiny capsules covered in a white, fluffy down for seed dispersal, although typically this tree propagates from its root suckers. The smooth, rounded leaves are green and its long leaf stalk is flat. This makes the distinctive leaves tremble in the slightest breeze.
While these trees are known by many names—white poplar, quaking aspen, quivering aspen, golden aspen—the name it is best known as is Trembling Aspen. According to ReForest London it is native to this area, but not necessarily the best choice for homeowners with limited space, due to its suckering nature. It prefers full sun, but is adaptable to most soil and moisture levels, aside from the wettest locations. While it is quick-growing, it also short-lived and breaks down rapidly. The wood is soft and brittle, making it dangerous to surrounding buildings due to its weak nature. As far as firewood goes, it’s not much better, as it dries slowly, rots quickly, and doesn’t throw off much heat.
But I bet the next time you see a blazing yellow stand of trembling aspen quaking in the woods, you’ll recognize this beautiful tree in an instant.