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Quaking Aspen

aspen_quake1

aspen_quake2

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Populus tremuloides
FAMILY: Salicaceae

This tree in Colorado Aspen is one of Colorado’s most popular trees, especially at this time of the year. Its fall color, contrasted against the green coniferous forest and deep blue sky, is splendid and draws thousands of people to the Rockies each fall. Brilliant yellows with occasional tinges of reds and oranges excite the visual senses. The soft light-green to creme white bark accented with dark ridges outlining branches make this tree especially attractive. So much so that many people want to bring this beautiful tree into their urban yards. Aspen is a “pioneer tree.” It grows quickly after forest disturbances like fire, landslides, and logging. In urban areas, growing aspen in tilled areas is usually best and provides an opportunity to have a grove of trees. Aspens easily sprout from its existing roots. Aspen is beautiful but it comes with an abundance of problems for the home landscape setting. Be thoughtful in its placement and planting.

Hardiness Zones 1 to 6 — a wide range. Aspen is the most widely distributed tree of North America.

Growth rate Accent plantings at the corners of homes. It can be a small shade tree for patio or deck. It is not recommended to plant it singly but in groups. It’s mountain beauty doesn’t transfer as well to the urban landscape. Leaf color doesn’t have the same impact as seen in the mountains. The many diseases associated with aspen are enhanced in the urban setting. Again, it is important that a planting site protected from the encroachment of grass sod be considered.

Foliage Simple, thin, ovate about 1-1/2″ to 3″ long and wide. On a long flattened petiole about 1″ to 2-1/2″ long. Margins are finely serrate (dull sawtooth). When there is a slight breeze, the leaves “tremble.”

Flowers Insignificant. Few aspen are regenerated from seeds, in the west.

Bark Green-white to creme colored. Becomes furrowed on older trunks.

Insects and diseases Abundant. The most common insect would be oystershell scale which can be controlled with a Teflon pad and actually removing the insects. Leafminers, mites, aphids, and leafrollers are also common. Diseases probably affect the tree the most. Stem cankers and leaf spots are prevalent. The best practice is to clean up the leaves and dispose of them in the autumn.

Landscape value Accent plantings at the corners of homes. It can be a small shade tree for patio or deck. It is not recommended to plant it singly but in groups. It’s mountain beauty doesn’t transfer as well to the urban landscape. Leaf color doesn’t have the same impact as seen in the mountains. The many diseases associated with aspen are enhanced in the urban setting. Again, it is important that a planting site protected from the encroachment of grass sod be considered.

Information sources
Michael Kuhns, Trees of Utah and the Intermountain West (Utah State University Press, 1998)
Michael Dirr, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (University of Georgia, 1990)
D. Leatherman, H. McNulty, M. Schomaker, and D. Lynch, Aspen: A Guide to Common Problems in Colorado, Colorado State Forest Service (CSU, 1986)