White Poplar (Populus alba)

300x225Native to central to southwestern Europe, even spreading to Morocco, White Poplar was brought to North America in the 18th century. It is recently regarded as invasive throughout New England. In places such as Cape Cod, it has been planted to strengthen sand dunes, due to an extensive root base and a good tolerance of salt. A deciduous tree that can reach heights of little over 70 feet, White Poplars have smooth bark that is green-white while they are young, and becomes darker as they get older. The leaves can be oval to maple leaf shaped, with 3-5 broad lobes present. Flowers are arranged in catkins and bloom in early spring; the seeds are covered with a cottony fluff that allows the wind to disperse them widely.

300x225 2In part due to the early blooming time and their tolerance for poorer soil, White Poplars out-compete native species of trees and shrubs. They also produce large seed crops and can re-sprout easily if damaged. Due to this they can grow into dense stands, eliminating other species in the immediate area while shading out plants in the near vicinity. Small seedlings can be uprooted effectively, but once the trees are more established, one needs the help of cutting tools and herbicides to fully eliminate these trees. Cutting alone is often not enough because of a tendency to re-sprout. Girdling is also an effective way to kill the tree, especially if aided by the application of herbicides.