Tree of the Month: Trembling Aspen

Scientific Name: Populus tremuloides

The Trembling Aspen is widespread throughout North America and can be found in all of the Canadian provinces. The tree is named for the leaves’ characteristic of shaking or fluttering in even the lightest wind, due to the long, flat stalk of the leaves. In the past, people would predict storms by watching the leaves to see if they would shake in the absence of any wind.  

Most of Trembling Aspen trees grow to around 25 metres tall (80ft). The leaves of the Trembling Aspen are round and almost heart-shaped with rounded teeth along the edge. The bark of the tree is smooth and is usually a grey to greenish colour. Although the colonies can live a very long time, the individual trees do not live very long lives, averaging around 80 years before they die. Some trees can become infected with tree rot, which leaves cavities for birds and other animals to nest in.

Substances in the bark of the Trembling Aspen have been used in the past by hunters to wash away human odour. The substances in the bark have also been used as anti-inflammatories, and to treat arthritis and colds. This tree is also considered to be a nurse tree, as it encourages the growth of others species of trees around it, which can replace the Trembling Aspen when it dies.

This tree has the ability to create clones of itself by sending shoots up through its wide network of roots. Colonies are formed through this ability that can consist of a few to hundreds of genetically identical trees. Some people consider the Trembling Aspen to be the largest living organism in the world, with some colonies living to be thousands of years old. A colony in Utah is believed to be around 80,000 years old!

Want to plant one?

It is not recommended that the Trembling Aspen be planted near streets because of its root system and its cloning ability. This tree is best planted in forests and grows well in areas where tree growth has been disturbed, as it can help to reforest the area.  It grows best in moist soil, but can grow in a variety of soil types. It also requires sunny areas in order to grow.