|Leaf Shape||Round, some with serrated edges|
|Mature Height||40 to 60 feet|
|Best Habitat||Moist soil and full sunlight
|Uses||Medicine, wood and weapons|
The Aspen tree is a treat for the senses. Not only is the deciduous hardwood easy on the eyes, it is also treasured for the calming melody it emits when the wind flutters its many leaves. The visual and audio benefits of the tall tree make it a popular pick among professional landscapers and homeowners alike. However, there are some facts to consider before adding an Aspen to your property.
Appearance of the Tree
A member of the genus Populus, the Aspen tree can grow to heights that range from 40 to 60 feet. The popular shade tree sports a rounded canopy that can spread as wide as 30 feet. In addition to their large size, Aspens are known for other distinguishing traits, such as:
- Leaves: Aspen leaves differ from species to species. For example, the Quaking Aspen features small, round leaves with a shiny green top and dull green underside. Meanwhile, Bigtooth Aspens typically have larger leaves with serrated edges. Both types have long, skinny, flexible stems which allow the leaves to sway in the slightest breeze. In the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant yellow, or in some cases, a fiery red color.
- Bark: The Quaking Aspen's bark ranges in color from greenish-white to ecru, while the Bigtooth species features a dark green bark. As the Aspen matures, its bark turns grey, or sometimes greenish-grey. Young Aspens have smooth barks, while older trees acquire furrowed bark with a diamond-shaped pattern that attracts dark lichen.
- Flowers: Aspen trees flowers are called catkins. The long bloom contains hundreds of tiny seeds which feature tiny hairs. The catkins blossom in March and April prior to the leaves appearing.
Another one of the Aspen's defining characteristics is its root system. The tree has an extensive root system that can grow up to 40 feet away from the parent tree. The Aspen's roots seek out water sources and in the process can tear up sidewalks and infiltrate sewers and septic systems.
Aspen Tree Types
The Aspen is a wondrous specimen; however not all types of the tree are ideal for home landscaping. Among the most popular are:
- Quaking Aspen: Considered as the most widely spread broadleaf tree in North America, the Quaking Aspen is prized for its spectacular fall foliage. The tree, also known as "Golden Aspen," gets its name from the fact that its leaves tremble or quake in the lightest winds.
- Bigtooth Aspen: This tree is especially prevalent in the northern portions of the United States and southeastern Canada. The Bigtooth gets its name from its leaves which are serrated like razor-sharp teeth.
- European Aspen: Don't let its name fool you; the European Aspen doesn't grow exclusively in Europe. Rather, the tree can thrive from Africa to Asia. The European variety is an attractive specimen for landscapers thanks to its amazing fall foliage. In autumn, the tree's leaves change from green to yellow, copper, and blaze orange before falling to the ground. The tree's large branches are also a haven for birds and woodland creatures.
Where the Aspen Grows
Aspen trees are located throughout the world, including Canada, Europe, Japan and Mexico. However, the most popular landscaping varieties spawn in the United States particularly in:
- North Dakota
Aspens need plenty of water and sunlight in order to prosper.
Aspens are stately trees with a number of popular uses, including:
- Wood: The tree's soft, white wood is often used to make paper and matches. In addition, shredded Aspen wood is used as packing and stuffing material. Heat-resistant Aspen wood can also be found in the interiors of saunas, while other parts of the tree's trunk are used to make oars and paddles.
- Medicine: Some of the first American Indians to arrive in the United States used the leaves of the Aspen to treat swollen joints, headaches and burns. Meanwhile, parts of the bark were consumed in order to alleviate stomach ailments and urinary tract infections.
- Weapons: Aspen stakes have long been associated with weapons used to kill vampires and werewolves. To this day, people living in Eastern Slovenia still plant Aspens near their homes in case they need the wood to build weapons.
Aspen has long been a symbol of the Christmas season in various parts of the world. Consequently, many interesting facts exist in regards to its role with the holiday, including:Aspens play a big role in mythology. The tree is considered one of heroes and crowns were made from its leaves, which ancient Greeks thought held magical powers. The leaf crowns were thought to be so special, many Greeks were buried with them with the hope that their spirit would be reborn and they would return to earth. Greek warriors also used Aspen wood to craft shields. In fact, Aspis, the tree's Greek name, translates to the word "shield."
In other cultures, the wind, which causes the Aspen's leaves to rustle, is often thought to be the voice of the beyond. Some people believe the leaves of the Aspen speak to them in a distinctive voice even in the gentlest of breezes, and that if they listen patiently and carefully, the answer to life's mysteries will be revealed to them.
They may be tall, but Aspen trees have their weak spots. Among them is the tree's bark, which is relatively weak and prone to diseases, including:
- Cytospora Canker: This fungal disease affects the tree's bark by leaving yellow, orange-brown or black cankers in its wake. The lesions ooze an orange liquid and can cause black pimples and freckling. If caught early, the tree can survive a canker attack.
- Aspen Leaf Spot: Caused by the Marssonina fungus, the disease presents itself as dark brown or black spots on the Aspen's leaves. In some cases the spots can feature yellow halos or white centers on the leaves. As the disease progresses large black patches will form on the leaves. Affected leaves may fall prematurely.
- Rust Disease: This is also a fungal disease, which causes small, yellow-orange, bumps on the back side of the Aspen's leaves. When opened, the lesions release an orange liquid or powder which can infect the entire tree.
Leaf and shoot blight is another common disease that attacks the Aspen, though it primarily affects young trees with immature vascular systems.
The Aspen is a welcome addition to any landscape, though if you don't know how to properly care for the tree, then it is unlikely that it will remain a decorative feature on your property for long. In order to keep your tree healthy and strong, consider the following:
- Water the tree regularly. Aspens need a lot of water to grow and its roots will seek out water sources if it gets thirsty.
- Fertilize young Aspens once each year in the spring.
- Prune the tree's branches in the winter.
- Never remove more than one-third of the Aspen's branches in a single year, despite the age of the tree.
- Watch for premature leaf drop as this may be a sign that your Aspen is being attacked by pests, such as tent caterpillars, or has contracted a fungal disease.
Finally, since most Aspens grow at a rate of about five feet per year, it's not a good idea to plant the tree near power lines or other structures.