white poplar

(Populus alba)

Conservation Status
white poplar
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Weed Status

Considered a weed in Wisconsin and Tennessee. Not listed in Minnesota.


White poplar is a fast-growing, short-lived, deciduous tree rising on a single trunk from a shallow, spreading root system. In Minnesota, mature trees are usually 40 to 70 tall and up to 24 in diameter at breast height, though large individuals can reach 89 in height and 78 in diameter. It often has shoots (suckers) rising from the roots up to 100 from the trunk, and sometimes forms extensive colonies. For this reason, it is sometimes considered a weed.

The trunk is short, much branched, often crooked, and often forked near the base. When growing in a forest, the crown is thin and narrow. When in an open area, it is broad and rounded. The branches are stout, crooked, and spreading to ascending.

The bark on young trees is smooth and greenish-white. After several years it is gray to grayish-brown with dark, conspicuous pores (lenticels). The lenticels are large, raised, corky, and distinctly diamond-shaped. On older trees the bark near the base is thick, dark gray, and rough, with longitudinal furrows and ridges.

Young twigs are slender, greenish-gray, and densely covered with whitish-gray, felt-like hairs. They are round in cross section and have white pith. As they age they become hairless or nearly hairless.

Terminal buds are to long, egg-shaped, and pointed. They are not resinous. They are densely covered with whitish-gray, felt-like hairs. Lateral buds are similar but smaller.

Two types of leaves are produced: early (preformed) leaves; and late (neoformed) leaves. Preformed leaves overwinter in the bud and are fully formed or almost fully formed before the buds burst in the spring. They are the first leaves to mature in the spring. Neoformed leaves are all of the subsequent leaves produced on long shoots. They are formed in the same season that they emerge.

All leaves are deciduous and alternate. The leaf stalks (petioles) are 1 to 23 16 long, shorter than the leaf blades, and are more or less round in cross section, not flattened. They are densely covered with white, woolly hairs. There are no conspicuous glands on the petiole. There is sometimes a pair of cup-shaped glands at or near the base of the leaf blade.

Preformed leaf blades are egg-shaped, unlobed, 1½ to 2 long, and slightly less wide. They taper or are angled to a blunt point at the tip, and are rounded or slightly heart-shaped at the base. The upper surface is dark green and shiny, densely hairy at first, becoming thinly hairy just along the main veins when mature. The lower surface is densely covered with persistent, white, felt-like hairs. The margins are minutely hairy and have 3 to 8 broad, coarse teeth or scallops per side as well as scattered small teeth. There is no thin yellow or translucent line or band along the margin. Neoformed leaves are larger, 2 to 4¾ long, and are palmately lobed with 3 or 5 lobes. Their shape is similar to a maple leaf. The margins are irregularly finely toothed and scalloped. They are otherwise similar to preformed leaves. The leaves turn reddish-yellow In autumn.

Male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers are borne on separate trees. They appear before the leaves in March to May. Both male and female flowers are borne in narrow, crowded, short-stalked or almost stalkless clusters (catkins). The catkins emerge from lateral buds on 2nd year twigs. Staminate catkins are 13 16 to 2 long and pendulous, pistillate catkins 2 to 4 long, arched, and drooping.

Each staminate flower consists of a cup-like disk and 6 to 12 stamens, and is subtended by a single, nearly oval, modified leaf (bract). The stamens have anthers that turn bright red before shedding pollen. The bract is toothed, not lobed, and has long, silky hairs along the margins, at least toward the tip. Each pistillate flower consists of a disk, a naked superior ovary, and a single style, and is subtended by a single bract. The style is branched nearly to the base and has a slender stigma at each tip

The fruit is a narrowly egg-shaped, hairless, to 3 16 long, 2-valved capsule. They are green at first, turning brown at maturity. The seeds are about 1 16 long and are surrounded by long silky hairs that are attached at the base of the seed. They are released in late spring to early summer and are dispersed by wind.




40 to 70




No records kept for non-native trees.


Flower Color


Gray to reddish


Similar Species


Moist. Upland forests, stream banks, roadsides, field borders, and old homesites. Full or partial sun; shade intolerant. Well drained soil.




March to May


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 22, 24, 28, 29, 30.




Native to Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Canary Islands. Introduced into North America in 1748. Widely cultivated. Sometimes escapes cultivation. Widely naturalized in the United States and southern Canada.




Uncommon in Minnesota

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Malpighiales (nances, willows, and allies)  


Salicaceae (willow)  
  Subfamily Salicoideae  
  Tribe Saliceae  
  Genus Populus (poplars, cottonwoods, and aspens)  
  Section Populus (aspens and allies)  



Populus alba var. bolleana

Populus alba var. nivea

Populus alba var. pyramidalis


Common Names



European white poplar

silver poplar

silverleaf poplar

white poplar












Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.



A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.



On plants: The stalk of a leaf blade or a compound leaf that attaches it to the stem. On ants and wasps: The constricted first one or two segments of the rear part of the body.



Referring to a flower that has a female reproductive organ (pistil) but does not have male reproductive organs (stamens).



The spongy cells in the center of the stem.



Referring to a flower that has a male reproductive organs (stamens) but does not have a female reproductive organ (pistil).



A basal shoot rising from the roots or from a bud at the base of a shrub or tree.

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Form of mature white poplar, South Central Minnesota, December 2017

    white poplar      

White poplar, near MN/IA border, 2016

    white poplar   white poplar  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos


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    white poplar      


    white poplar   white poplar  

Leaf Underside

    white poplar   white poplar  
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New Growth

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  Populus alba
Matt Lavin
  Populus alba  

Introduced tree 5-20 m tall, leaves distinctively with white tomentose undersurfaces, often escaping cultivation along riparian corridors. Although the leaves may look maple-like (palmately lobed), Populus does not have opposite branching.

  Populus alba
Blake C. Willson
  Populus alba  

White Poplar




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Other Videos
  Trees with Don Leopold - white poplar

Published on Jun 27, 2012

  Educational videos on nature (White poplar - tree)- July 2017
Terrence Pickles

Published on Jul 18, 2017

There isn't much White Poplar around Exeter from what I've seen. The few that I have found are located in the Sowton industrial estate of Exeter, UK.


White poplar is a deciduous broadleaf tree native to central and southern Europe, though it is naturalised in the UK.

White poplar can grow to 20m. It is the whitest tree in the landscape, and from a distance it can appear to be covered in snow. The bark is pale grey with lines of black diamond-shaped pores, called lenticels. Twigs are white, and young twigs have a covering of dense white hair that last until their second year.

It is native to Morocco and the Iberian Peninsula, white poplar grows in moist conditions, often by watersides.


This species is introduced and widely planted in parks and gardens, mainly for the beauty of its foliage. It flourishes in polluted air or near the sea.

Male catkins, 4-7 cm long, and female catkins 2-5 cm long, appear on separate trees (dioecious) in February and March, well before the leaves.

The male catkins have purple anthers, whilst the females have greenish stigmas.

Male trees are rare, so fertile catkins and seed are infrequent.

Goat Moth caterpillars tunnel under the bark and damage the timber below.

It is seldom cultivated for timber because other species of poplar grow more quickly.

It is a native from Western Europe to Central Asia introduced to Britain from Holland in the 16th century


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Salicaceae
Genus: Populus
Section: Populus
Species: P. alba
Binomial name
Populus alba




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December 2017

Location: South Central Minnesota

Form of mature white poplar

white poplar  

Location: near MN/IA border

white poplar  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings




Created: 12/9/2017

Last Updated:

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