Scientific Name: Populus tremuloides
Synonyms: Populus aurea, P. cercidiphylla, P. × polygonifolia, P. tremula ssp. tremuloides, P. vancouveriana
Common Names: Quaking Aspen, Trembling Aspen, Trembling Poplar, American Aspen, Golden Aspen
Duration: Perennial, Deciduous
Growth Habit: Tree
Arizona Native Status: Native
Habitat: Mountain. This tree grows in clearings, in formerly burned areas, along streams, and on sunny slopes in montane and subalpine coniferous forests.
Flower Color: Inconspicuous
Flowering Season: Early spring (before the leaves)
Height: Up to 50 feet (15 m) tall or more
Description: The tiny, wind-pollinated flowers are densely clustered in long, furry, pendulous, reddish, brownish, and greenish catkins. The female flowers are followed by white, cottony seeds. The leaves are green above, pale green below, hairless, saw-toothed, and almost circular in shape with a tapering, pointed tip. The leaves have long, flexible, laterally flattened leaf stalks that easily allow them to quake and quiver in the breeze, making a sound like falling water. Before they fall, the leaves turn a brilliant golden yellow to golden orange color in the autumn. The winter leaf buds are shiny, red-brown, and hairless. The bark is smooth and white to grayish white in color with black, eye-like scars left by fallen branches. The trunks are tall, slender, straight, and either upright or somewhat leaning. The trees are pyramidal when young and narrow in form when mature. These fast-growing, but short-lived plants reproduce by seed and also spread by root clones, forming large clonal groves.
The other Populus species found in southeastern Arizona are quite different from this species. Narrowleaf Cottonwood (Populus angustifolia) is not found at very high mountain elevations and has light brown, furrowed bark and narrower, lance-shaped leaves, while Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) grows at lower elevations and has a broad, rounded growth form and rough, furrowed, tan to grayish tan bark.
Allergenic – The flower pollen is a moderate allergen.
Edible – The starchy inner bark and the bitter-tasting catkins are edible and were a food source for Native Americans.
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family: Salicaceae – Willow family
Genus: Populus L. – cottonwood
Species: Populus tremuloides Michx. – quaking aspen
More About This Plant
Arizona County Distribution Map
Aspen Eyes (Populus tremuloides) – The Firefly Forest
Autumn Quaking Aspens (Populus tremuloides) – The Firefly Forest