Aspen, The Tree In Demand
The aspen, or poplar, is a tree that is in great demand by those in the wood products industry. Fortunately it is abundant as it is also a great source of habitat to wildlife.
Occupying statewide, in Minnesota, except for a sliver on the Dakota border from Canada to Iowa, the quaking aspen is our most common specie of tree.
Aspens can be found in most places, but prefers well-drained soils. They can be in stands, by themselves or mixed with hardwoods or conifers.
The leaves of the aspen alternate along the stems and are oval in shape, being up to four inches across with a point. The bark is thin and gray-green and is mostly smooth. There are black areas at the base of the limbs. These trees can reach a height of up to about 75 feet and have a trunk diameter of up to three feet.
Aspens can live up to 100 years, but mature at around 50 years. Living in the sunshine, loose soil, and away from fires help assure a long life to these trees.
I have had state foresters on various properties I have owned and in all cases, it was recommended that aspen be cut as mature trees promote disease that will, in the long run, hurt the specie. Clearing also lets sunshine hit the forests’ floor, allowing the growth of many species of vegetation in addition to aspen. While growing, aspens tend to thin themselves as a result of disease, insects and competition amongst themselves.
Natural enemies of the aspen include aspen tortrix and the forest tent caterpillar, which defoliate. Other harmful insects to the aspen include wood boring beetles.
Homer, in his 800 BC work the Odyssey, wrote “Some wove the web, Or twirled the spindle, siting, with a quick Light motion like the aspen’s glancing leaves.”