50 Natives: Vermont: Populus tremuloides – Quaking Aspen

Aspens are my favorite trees, always have been always will be.  It is probably the product of a Colorado proud childhood.

Remember all those questionnaires you make all your friends fill out in elementary school?  What is your favorite color? (me: green or blue), What is your favorite car? (me: Lamborghini – because that is what you said in the 70’s – I couldn’t identify one on the road today), What are you going to be when you grow up? (me: an astronaut), Where are you going to live? (me: in a grove of aspens)

I stand by that last one….Don’t you agree? Wouldn’t a house right in the middle of this be wonderful?

populus tremuloides quaking aspen

image by oysters4me

Aspens are easily identified by their smooth pale bark, scarred with black and glossy green leaves that become golden to yellow and sometimes red in autumn.

They rarely flower, mostly propagating through roots to form large groves.  I am fascinated by the fact that all trees in a given clonal colony are considered part of the same organism and one clonal colony, named Pando in Utah, is considered the heaviest and oldest living organism. It is estimated to be six million kilograms and approximately 80,000 years old.

1. not so quaking aspen, 2. Golden Quaking Aspens., 3. Frosty Trembling Aspen Leaves, 4. Autumn Aspens

This tree is reported to rarely survive at elevations lower than 1,500 feet (460 m) due to the mild winters experienced below that elevation, and is generally found at 5,000–12,000 feet (1,500–3,700 m).  I think I am going to give it a try in Central Massachusetts nonetheless….I love on top of a hill and while my hill is not quite 1500 feet above sea level….it is noticeably sharper up here in the winter than 100 yards down the hill in any direction.

colorado aspens

image from Colorado Guy.

In my childhood neighborhood I think every house has a little clump of these trees somewhere in the front yard.  They have a delicate look and they are always prettier when you have three or more together.  Locally, I can source 2-3′ whips for under $8 each so I am think about planting at least 5 of them in front of my new split rail fence.  (did I mention…we  got a big part of that project done this weekend).  They are fast growers so while I won’t get instant impact, I know I will get a pretty satisfying look for cheap (in a few years).

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.
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2 Comments

  1. Jeremy Holm on August 17, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    As a native of the Mountains West of Denver and a current resident of Vermont, I am so happy to have found your article and would love to know how your Aspens are doing??!!!
    Thanks Much,
    Jeremy Holm
    Vergennes Vermont

    • Rochelle on August 18, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      Well, I have three – and one has been attacked by some sort of bug that makes the texture of the bark very bumpy (I think they are burrowing under the outer skin). I haven’t treated (as I am not sure what will help) but I think that it is going to kill the tree. The other two are however completely fine and beautiful. I started with 5 and lost two immediately in the first winter. These remainders have lived for at least 5 years.

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