Consider factors before planting silver poplars

Many gardeners and homeowners are familiar with the species of trees known as both poplar and aspen, of which the Rainy River District is home to four.
These are the eastern cottonwood, the large-tooth aspen, the balsam poplar (some call it black poplar or bam), and the trembling (quaking) aspen.
Hybridized species, used in horticultural settings, include the Lombardy poplar and the silver (white) poplar.
Many are familiar with the Lombardy and eastern cottonwood species as they are used throughout the district by homeowners and farmers as windrow tree species.
The silver, or white, poplar is one of the most commonly misidentified tree species around. It has leaves that are dark green on the top and covered with a silvery white fuzz on the underside.
The woolly hairs also coat the twigs and buds of the tree.
Because the leaves have three-five lobes, just like a maple leaf, many misidentify this species as one from the maple family, but it is no relation as it truly is a poplar.
Of all the poplars, this is one of the most attractive with its contrasting dark green and slivery leaves. On closer inspection, the leaves truly have a velvety feel.
The bark also is attractive as it is a smooth, whitish green colour with characteristic diamond-shaped dark marks.
Although this poplar species is native to central Europe and Asia, it has been considered to have become naturalized in North America and grows very well in our local climate.
In our region, the tree often reaches 20-30 feet in height, but has been known to reach 50-70 feet. This species also has a nice oval shape to the crown, making it a great shade tree and very aesthetically pleasing.
As well, it has a reputation for being one poplar species with a longer lifespan, living well past 100 years in some parts of North America.
The silver poplar is not high on the list of species in demand by the consumer because of some of its negative characteristics for horticulture use.
Before you decide to plant a silver poplar in your yard, there are a few factors to consider before you decide if this is the right tree for you.
As noted, this species is an excellent choice if all you are concerned about is a fast-growing shade tree, but it does have some drawbacks. As with many poplars, this species is highly susceptible to disease and insect invasion.
Several types of canker are known to infect this species, causing large black calloused marks on the trunk or branches. And the leaves often are infected by powdery mildew, leaf borer, or leaf spot—sometimes with more than one ailment at a time.
Also common among poplar species is their aggressive form of reproduction.
Poplars reproduce in two ways: by airborne seeds and root suckering. Some people are highly-allergic to the pollen from their long flower clusters and woolly airborne seeds.
For those homeowners who already have grown poplars in your yard, you are well aware of the aggressive small poplar trees that sprout up in your grass. And the more you mow them down, the more there seems to be the next time.
The parent tree of the polar sends out suckers into your lawn as a form of survival. If the parent tree is exposed to any form of stress (i.e., too wet, drought, insect or disease invasion, old age, etc.), it sends out root suckers which are clones of itself in order to preserve its genetic characteristics.
Depending on the level of stress and condition of the tree, these suckers can vary from a few to a yard full of them.
This also can occur when you cut the tree down and remove it from your yard because the energy left in the roots and stump of the tree also will produce this reaction.
So if you are trying to maintain a weed-free, manicured lawn, then a poplar species is not the best choice.
Another problem to be aware of is the fact that the roots of poplar species can be quite aggressive, creating problems with drainage piping, sewer and gas lines, septic systems, and foundations, so you will want to assess your situation before planting a poplar.
A poplar tree also will take advantage of the enhanced nutrients a garden or flower bed has by forcing its roots into the vicinity of garden.
This, in turn, can take away from the production of your garden, and the roots will be next to impossible to eliminate from the garden once they are established.
If you decide you’d like to try this poplar species, it should be planted in the full sun, preferably moist but well-drained soil.
This poplar species is considered to be tolerant to many environmental conditions, such as drought, salt (from road salting), and air pollution, so it may be a good choice for you if you are having problems with other tree species because of any of these situations.
If you are looking for a fast-growing shade tree to be planted away from the house, or a species to develop a windbreak or visual screen or barrier, then the silver poplar may be a good choice for you.
But even though the leaves are very attractive and interesting on this species, you must consider all of the characteristics of the tree before making a decision.
Just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge a tree by its leaves only. When deciding on any shrub or tree for your yard, make sure all of its characteristics meet your needs and desires.
A little research can save time, money, and disappointment in the long run.

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