The poplar, types and care

The poplars are trees that are widely used as windbreak hedges since they have a more or less narrow glass and leaves densely populated. They are also very resistant to cold, and frost does not harm them at all. In fact, in order for them to be well, it is important that the climate of the place has the four seasons well differentiated from each other, otherwise they would end up weakening.

It must also be said that these plants do not require special care, although some things must be accomplished so that problems do not arise, either in the short or medium term.

Origin and characteristics of poplar

The poplar or poplar is a deciduous tree of the Salicaceae family belonging to the genus Populus. It can reach a height of 35 meters and that is why it is ideal for planting in places with a lot of wind as its branches are also flexible and that is why they do not break easily. These branches also grow horizontally and bent downwards, while the trunk is thick and very erect, quite thin and its main characteristic is that as time passes, the bark cracks and thus the trunk is stained in various shades.

The leaves are bright green, serrated and the flowers are grouped in hanging inflorescences. The fruits are capsules with seeds and bloom during February and March.

In addition to its natural, simple and seamless beauty, one of the great virtues of poplar is that it is a fast-growing, solid tree made of a strong, high-quality, fibrous and durable wood, widely used in the lumber industry.

Main species

There are various types of poplars, and some can be found in places like North Africa, West and Central Asia, some parts of Europe, and South America. These are the best known species:

Populus alba

Image – Flickr/ Andreas Rockstein

It is known as white poplar, common poplar or white poplar, and it is a species native to central and southern Europe, central Asia and North Africa. In Spain we find it on the peninsula. It reaches 30 meters in height, and its leaves are tomentose on both sides.

Populus canadensis

Image – Wikimedia/ WeeJeeVee

Known as Canadian black poplar or Canadian poplar, it is a hybrid species that comes from the cross of Populus nigra with Populus deltoides. Its true scientific name is Populus x canadensis. It reaches 30 meters in height, and its leaves are green.

Populus canescens

Image – Wikimedia/ GuentherZ

The Populus canescens is known as gray poplar, cottonwood or poplar gray bastard Picardy. It comes from the crossing of Populus alba with Populus tremula. Its full scientific name is Populus x canescens. It is native to Europe and Western Asia. In Spain it is found in the peninsula, especially in Castilla y León, although it is a rare species in this country. It reaches 30 meters in height, and its leaves are grayish, with a hairy underside.

Populus deltoides

Image – Flickr/ Matt Lavin

The North American black poplar is a tree that, as you can guess, is native to North America. Specifically, from southern Canada to northern Mexico. It reaches a height of 20-25 meters, and its leaves are glabrous on both sides.

Populus simonii

Image – Wikimedia/ Alain Gérard

It is known as pear poplar or Chinese poplar, and it is a tree native to China. It reaches 15-20 meters in height, and has leaves with a dark green upper surface, and a slightly lighter underside.

Populus nigra

The black poplar, or black poplar, is a tree native to Europe. It grows to a height of 20 to 30 meters. The leaves are green when they finish maturing, although pubescent when they sprout.

Populus tremula

The aspen or aspen is a tree native to Europe and Asia, which can reach a height of between 10 and 25 meters. Its leaves have flat petioles, which is why the slightest breeze causes them to ‘tremble’, hence its name.

Uses of poplars

Although the poplar is a tree widely cultivated for specific purposes – to stop the wind, to obtain wood, etc. – it is also widely chosen as an ornamental tree, destined to add green in avenues, parks, gardens and fields. It is common to see it next to the roads of large farms, where they work as screens either in places with a lot of wind or to avoid the land.

Poplar care

There are some things you have to know if you want to plant a poplar in your garden, and they are the following:

  • Location: they are trees that, certainly, do not take up as much space as a false banana for example, but their root system has a great development. Therefore, it is necessary to avoid planting them near the houses because over time their roots will affect the foundations. At a minimum, they must be about 10 meters from the facade, pipes, etc., but if they can be more, the better.
  • Soil: they grow in rich soils with proper drainage (that is, they have a good capacity to absorb and filter water from the first moment it has received it).
  • Irrigation: they want plenty of water. It is common to see them growing near rivers and swamps, so you have to prevent the land from drying out.
  • Transplant: after frost they can be planted in the garden.
  • Hardiness: they easily resist frosts down to -18ºC, but in tropical climates they would not survive.

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