What it looks like

Most people instantly recognize trembling aspen when the breeze picks up. The leaf stalk is flattened and longer than the leaf blade, and the slightest breeze causes the leaves to flutter. Young bark is smooth, pale grayish-white with horizontal lines, eventually growing dark and furrowed with age. The fluffy seeds are dispersed from hanging green capsules in late spring. Trembling aspen often grows in pure stands after disturbance, and succession will occur when young conifers or hardwoods seedlings take shelter and outgrow them.

Where it is found

Trembling aspen is similar in its range to its cousin, balsam poplar, covering all of Ontario except the most northern fringe near Hudson Bay. It occurs throughout all forested areas of Canada.

Planting Tips

  • Size: Up to 25 m tall
  • Moisture: Adaptable to all but the wettest sites
  • Shade: Intolerant of shade, prefers full sun
  • Soil: Adaptable

Trembling aspen is a remarkable species for quick growth and establishment on poor, disturbed or burnt areas, but is not recommended for many residential situations due to a large suckering root system and weak wood.

Did you know?

Trembling aspen can form expansive colonies by sending up new trunks as an old trunk dies. One colony in Utah is estimated to be over 80,000 years old.

Image credits

  • Tree: Daniel Tigner, Canadian Forest Tree Essences
  • Leaf: Daniel Tigner, Canadian Forest Tree Essences
  • Bark: Daniel Tigner, Canadian Forest Tree Essences
  • Fruit: Daniel Tigner, Canadian Forest Tree Essences