Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wild Wednesday ~ Aspen

Being from Colorado, I have a soft spot for aspen trees. Here they're derisively called "popple" and considered a trash tree, inferior in both wood and autumnal color, but they're actually quite beautiful when you give them a chance. We have two species on our land: bigtooth and quaking.

Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) is the same species we have in Colorado, but it has a different appearance and growth habit here. There it grows in dense, single-species stands on the edges of evergreen forests, but on our land it mingles with other trees (birch, cherry, beech, apple, alder, etc.). The trunks out west also appear a bright, waxy white, with big black eye spots and some black streaking. Here they're often grey (all of the trees in this picture are aspen), and when they are white, they have a lot of grey scarring.

The leaf stems, or petioles, are flattened perpendicular to the plane of the leaf, which makes them very flexible and allows them to "quake" or "tremble." Nothing is quite as lovely as an aspen tree covered in gold leaves that shimmer like a belly dancer's coins in the slightest breeze.

Bigtooth aspen leaves (Populus grandidentata), as you can see, have big teeth. They also have a silvery appearance in the early spring.

The leaves are also generally larger than quaking aspen's leaves, though there is a lot of variation among the leaves of both.

The bark is a pretty blah grey on younger individuals.

But bigtooth aspen grow larger than quaking and can tolerate shade better, and in our deeper woods, we have a few big ol' specimens with bark that has a beautiful, braided look to it.

The bigtooth leaves can have a more egg-like shape to them, though they also come in the traditional aspen shape.

They also sometimes turn red as well as gold.

Stands of both types of aspen grow near the end of our driveway and right now the ground is littered with their leaves, as if someone spilled a bag of gold coins.

And looking back, toward the house, most of the trees have lost their leaves, but those bright patches of gold rimming the canopy--those are aspen trees.


  1. We have a tree so similar to your Quaking Aspen, in the UK we call it Silver Birch the bark and leaves are almost identical. I love seeing different trees around the world, so many similarities but all different :)

    1. It's great that there are relatives--in spirit if not in blood--across the pond!

  2. That last picture is especially gorgeous.

  3. What a great post. We actually have both of these just down the street from our home, all along the bike path. We call them poplar trees here (or "peupliers" in french) and I love them too. I find the leaves so beautiful.


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