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Quaking Aspen will bring a spirit of playfulness to your landscape with its rounded leaves that shimmy and twirl in the slightest breeze. This tall, slender, fast-growing tree will cast dappled shade on your outdoor seating areas in summer and will delight you in fall with a show of luminous yellow foliage. One great landscaping idea is to highlight this tree’s trunk with uplighting, so that its greenish-white, Birch-like bark and trembling leaves may be appreciated even after dusk while you entertain or just relax on your porch or patio. Quaking Aspen looks best planted in groves, which is how this charming native tree grows in the wild.
- Hardiness Zone: 1-6
- Spacing: 15-20'
- Exposure: Full Sun
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Quaking Aspen, a.k.a. “White Poplar,” or “Popple,” is North America’s most wide-ranging tree and can be found from coast to coast and from Northern Canada all the way down to the mountains of Central Mexico. This remarkable tree rarely gains new ground by seed, however. Aspen spreads by sending out suckers, which pop up to produce new trees. These trees are all connected by one root system and are genetically identical, so each “colony” is technically a single organism. The largest colony, “Pando” (Latin for “I spread”), in Utah, covers an area the size of 80 football fields! Scientists estimate that the Pando colony has been growing for 80,000 years.
This native tree belongs to the Willow family, and like Willows it’s a great tree for a wildlife-friendly garden. Quaking Aspen feeds many species of butterflies, including the beautiful viceroy. The viceroy’s orange and black markings mimic those of the iconic monarch, thus fooling predators into thinking it tastes as bad as the toxic monarch butterfly.
How to Grow
Because of its unusual growing habit, Quaking Aspen is probably a little different from other trees you may have grown. To keep it as a single specimen tree, you must be careful to never damage the bark, and you must keep the roots cool with a layer of mulch. Otherwise, the suckering mechanism kicks in. You can keep suckers under control by mowing, though letting them spring up and form a grove is nice, too. Quaking Aspen laughs at cold weather (it grows where temperatures drop below -50°F!), but it isn’t crazy about the hot, humid summers of the Southeast. Plant it in a sunny site with well-drained soil for best results.
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