White Poplar
(Populus alba)
Simple
Lobed
Alternate
White and hairy below

leaves

less lobed leaves
L
ess lobed leaves

Winter twig
Winter twig

branch

tree

bark

distribution map

The leaves are alternate, leathery, 3-9 cm long, with 3-5 lobes and flattened leaf-stalks 5-6 cm long. They are dark-green above but densely white-hairy below. Those on short shoots have shallower lobes than those on long shoots which can be almost palmate like a maple or sycamore.

ID check

White Poplar grows as a medium-sized deciduous tree up to 20 m tall and suckers freely. It is roundish in outline with a greyish-white bark marked with black pores. This species is introduced and widely planted in parks and gardens, mainly for the beauty of its foliage. It flourishes in polluted air or near the sea.

Male catkins, 4-7 cm long, and female catkins 2-5 cm long, appear on separate trees (dioecious) in February and March, well before the leaves.

The male catkins have purple anthers, whilst the females have greenish stigmas.

Male trees are rare, so fertile catkins and seed are infrequent.

Facts

  • Goat Moth caterpillars tunnel under the bark and damage the timber below.

  • It is seldom cultivated for timber because other species of poplar grow more quickly.

  • It is a native from Western Europe to Central Asia introduced to Britain from Holland in the 16th century

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