Grey poplar is thought to be a natural hybrid between the White poplar (see page 45) and the aspen (see page 56) but by well-established usage it carries a specific name. It can be found growing as if wild over most of southern England and Wales, and it is occasionally planted for its timber. Its vigour and hardihood, together with the soundness of its timber and freedom from disease, enable it to qualify for Forestry Commission planting grants (see page 53),
The characters of Grey poplar lie midway between those of White poplar and aspen. Its leaves are greyish rather than white underneath, and their shape, though variable, comes closer to the circular aspen leaf than to the lobed leaf of White poplar (see Figure 66). The bark is heavily ridged and black at the base, with large white, silvery or cream, stippled patches higher up. Suckers arise readily from roots and aid the spread of the tree.
Female Grey poplars are rare in Britain, though they are frequent on the Continent of Europe. In cultivation Grey poplar is usually increased by suckers. Some very large specimens have been recorded; one at Birr Castle in Ireland is 37 X 3.36m (1.7m diameter). They have the same resistance lo salt winds as the White poplar, and grow more rapidly on the coastline.
Winter twig (life size) and bud [X7) of the Grey poplar. Both twigs and bud scales are slightly hairy.
Male and female catkins of Grey poplar are borne on separate trees. Male flowers, left, consist of a leafy bract fringed with hairs, and a green cup holding many stamens. Each female flower, top right has a similar bran and cup, with a flask-shaped, four-styled ovary. (Twigs and catkins, life size; single flowers, X12).
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