By Suzanne Wodek
Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) has the widest geographical range of any North American tree. Indigenous to Alaska, most of Canada, the Pacific Northwest, New England, the Great Lakes region and south to New Mexico and Arizona, its southernmost boundary on the east coast is North Carolina.
Common names like quaking aspen, trembling aspen and Quakie originated because of leaves that, on flattened stalks, flutter in even the smallest amount of wind. Noted for beautiful white bark, deep green foliage and golden yellow foliage in fall, these trees are great additions to your landscape with, however, a word of warning: they propagate primarily through root sprouts and extensive colonies are common.
Each colony is its own clone and all trees in the clone have identical characteristics and share a single root structure. They are dioecious so each grouping consists of all male or all female clones. Quaking aspens reach heights of 20 to 50 feet and can be grown in a wide variety of soils, ranging from shallow and rocky to deep, loamy sand and even heavy clays.
The wood is light, soft and straight-grained and has been used to make plywood, particle board and pulp for paper. Because the wood does not splinter readily, it is also used for toothpicks, sauna benches and wooden structures for playgrounds. The bark contains a substance that was extracted by indigenous North Americans and European settlers as a quinine substitute. The leaves of quaking aspen serve as food for caterpillars of various moths and butterflies, and many bird species forage on the seeds.
Upcoming events at The Botanical Gardens
Fall Bird Walk with Aaron Steed
Sunday, October 8, 9-11 a.m.
Join us for an easy, early morning bird walk in the Gardens, led by Aaron Steed, expert birder and ornithologist. As we look for, listen to and enjoy fall birds, we’ll learn to recognize their songs and calls. Field guides helpful but not required. Bring your binoculars.
Winter Tree ID with Jason Rodrigue
Saturday, November 4, from 1-4 p.m.
Jason Rodrigue, a forester and silviculturist with the U.S. Forest Service, will show us how to identify trees in winter. This involves learning to use bark, twig arrangement and growth type as markers for identification. Rodrigue holds degrees in environmental biology, resource management and forest soils.
Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes: 828.252.5190. Cost for the workshop is $12 for members, $17 for non-members.
The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Learn more at ashevillebotanicalgardens.org.