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Quaking Aspens

Quaking Aspen
Populus tremuloides (Aspen)


Quaking aspens are one of the most widely distributed deciduous trees on the North American continent.  It is known by many names (see the list below).


Trembling Aspens
Golden Aspens
Mountain Aspens
Trembling Poplar


Aspens will grow in many types of soils, but the sandy and gravelly slopes of the western mountains provides them with the nutrients they need to survive.  The best aspen stands in the western United States have been found on soils that includes igneous rocks such as basalt and different types of shale and limestone; the worst stands were found on soils derived from granite.  The aspen stands are usually found in the altitudinal zone that is located below the spruce fir forest.


 Aspen Range:

Throughout North America
Arctic Circle
Scandinavia to North Africa
Britain, northern Asia
to China and Japan


Aspen bark has been described as a whitish to grayish in color with black markings. The whitish color of the bark makes it easy to identify in the forest.  Their leaves are deciduous ovate in shape with a small teeth on the margins. The leaves are dark green on the top and pale green on the underside. After the first frost, the leaves will turn yellow, orange or reddish color.

Aspens are dioecious, so each tree is either a male or female.  The trees bloom in March and April, before the leaves appear.  The female and male trees produce catkins.  The pollinated female catkins release their seeds at the beginning of summer.



40 - 70 feet (12 - 21 meters)

1 - 1½feet (0.3 - 0.5 meters)

1½ - 3 inches (3 - 7.5 centimeters)

1 - 2½ inches (2.5 - 6 centimeters)

¼ inch (6 millimeters)

brilliant white to grayish color

6,000 - 10,000 feet
(1800 - 3000 meters)

Other Plants found in the forest with aspens are:

American green alder, dwarf bush-honeysuckle, mountain maple, blackberries, juniper, mountain snowberry, serviceberry, chokecherry, woods rose,  wild sarsaparilla, and many more wildflowers and grasses.

Food Source:

Aspens provide food (such as buds, bark, leaves and even fallen logs) for many types of wildlife: black bear, elk, deer, chipmunks, moose, rabbits, and many more small mammals.

The Native Americans would dry the bark of aspen and grind into meal.  The meal would then be used in baking breads and other forms of food.  The catkins (flower) were eaten raw, and the cambium (the layer of tissue between the bark and the wood) was eaten raw or used is soups.


Fiber source for the following items: Pulp, composite products, flake-board, pallets, boxes, veneer and plywood

Higher Grades of wood are used for the following items: Paneling, solid wood products, and flooring

Miscellaneous Products: excelsior, animal bedding, candlestick, matchsticks, beehives, tongue depressors, spoons and ice cream sticks

The wood is also good for playground construction because it does not splinter.


Aspen Facts:

 Aspens are pioneer plants -- fast growing and regenerates after disasters.

Some trees are self pruning -- they drop twigs during fall foliage.

Young trees first flower in the second or third year.

Reproduction is almost always by the roots sprouts -- clones.

The thin bark makes the tree susceptible to disease and insects.

Maximum age for a single western Aspen is around 150 years -- clones can be thousands of years old.

Over grazing by cattle in an area can destroy a stand of aspen.

Aspens can be a good firebreak.

Aspen roots have the ability of living underground even after the trees has died.

Scientists have recorded 60 different types of insects feeding on aspen.



All photos on this page ©2004 by Leah Arnold.

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