Aspen
(Populus tremula)
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
Flattened leaf stalk
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
Broadest at tip

leaves

Winter twig
Winter twig

branches

tree

catkin and bark

distribution map

The leaves are alternate, round, and 2.5-6 cm long. They are hairless, dark green on the upper surface and paler on the underside with a coarsely blunt-toothed margin. They have strongly flattened stalks, as long as, or longer than the leaves, which catch even the slightest breeze, causing a trembling movement and a rustling sound.

ID check

Aspen is a deciduous tree up to 20m in height. Sometimes it has a single silvery-barked trunk strongly marked with black diamonds, but in exposed places or on poor soils, it is often also a shrub with many suckers. It grows in open woodland, generally on moist soils with little lime content.

The leaves on the suckers are larger, maybe 5-12 cm long. They are sharply pointed and slightly hairy.

The male and female catkins are 5-8 cm long and appear on separate trees (dioecious) in February and March, before the leaves.

The brown male catkins have reddish-purple anthers. The green female catkins have pinkish or purplish stigmas, divided into two or more lobes.

Facts

  • The leaves are food for the caterpillars of the green hairstreak butterfly.

  • The wood can be used to make matches.

  • When beavers lived on Scottish rivers, aspen was one of their main food sources.

Return to Index Page