Colorado Plant Database

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ASPEN - Populus tremuloides

Courtesy of Lookout Mountain Nature Center,
Courtesy of Lookout Mountain Nature Center,
Courtesy of Lookout Mountain Nature Center,

Common Name: ASPEN
Meaning: leaves "quake" in the breeze.
Other Common Names: quaking aspen
Scientific Name: Populus tremuloides
Derivation: tremuloides - like tremulus (European species).
Family: Willow - Salicaceae
Species Characteristics: tree with smooth greenish or whitish bark; leaves "quake" in breeze due to flattened petiole (leaf stem).
Mature Height: to 60 feet.
Mature Spread: 25 to 30 feet.
Flower Color: greenish-white
Flower Cluster: catkin (a spike-like, hanging flower cluster with unisexual flowers)
Flower Structure: flowers unisexual and dioecious
Fruit Type: white hair tufts.
Leaf Type: simple (not divided into similar parts).
Leaf/Leaflet Shape: ovate (egg-shaped) to suborbicular (nearly round).
Origin: native
Frequency: common
Growth Form: tree
Life Cycle: perennial
Class: angiosperm (plant with covered seed).
SubClass: dicot (plants with two seed leaves and netted leaf veins).
Season of Bloom: spring (Mar. - May).
Life Zone: foothills to subalpine.
Habitat: moist slopes, streamsides, burned areas at 5,000 to 10,000 feet elevation.
Eco. Relationships: regeneration is declining with habitat loss; members of this family are primarily anemophilous (wind-pollinated); plants are dioecious (male and female flowers on different plants); aspen also reproduce vegetatively by rhizomes (spreading underground stems); in this way, genetically identical trees are produced which may cover large areas; aspen as well as other species in the willow family are host plants for Western Tiger Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple and Weidemeyer's Admiral butterflies; aspen are browsed heavily by elk in the fall and winter; elk eat the bark which is then scarred and susceptible to invasion by fungus; infection negatively impacts tree vigor and regeneration; twigs, bark and buds are browsed by beavers, pika, deer, moose, black bear, squirrels, cottontail and snowshoe rabbits and porcupine; seeds are eaten by grouse and other birds.

Origin: native

Availability: commonly available.
Landscaping Use: high-altitude shade tree, background.
Moisture Requirement: requires periodic irrigation.
Light Requirement: full sun; north at lower elevations.
Soil Requirement: medium to coarse texture, pH 6.5 to 7.0, shallow, well-drained, dry to moist.

Edibility: bark was used by Native Americans and settlers as an emergency ration; bark was also used as a fever remedy; active ingredient is salicin, similar to the main ingredient in aspirin, salicylic acid; considered good forage for domestic sheep.
Fiber/Dye: wood is used as pulp and lumber.
Other Uses: dead tree rots from inside and was preferred by Native Americans for small drums; all cottonwoods are considered phreatophytes meaning that they can survive only where the roots are able to access groundwater.

Version: 3.0.0      Release Date: August 2015       ©2015 Jefferson County ITS

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