Populus alba L.

white poplar

Copyright: various copyright holders. To reuse an image, please click it to see who you will need to contact.

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Found this plant? Take a photo and post a sighting.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

enlarge

Facts About

White poplar is distinguished from other poplars by its three-lobed leaves that are bright silver-white on their undersides. It grows rapidly in a variety of challenging conditions, and has naturalized in many habitats to become one of the most widespread trees in North America. Because it suckers readily, white poplar has been planted as a windbreak. It is also tolerant of urban pollution, making it a useful city tree, but its shallow roots can buckle sidewalks. Since it spreads easily from cultivation, it is considered an invasive species in many states, including Connecticut.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), forest edges, meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Growth form
the plant is a tree
Leaf type
the leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaves per node
there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
  • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
  • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
Leaf duration
the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
armature on plant
the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns
Leaf blade length
50–85 mm
Leaf blade width
40–80 mm
Leaf stalk
the leaves have leaf stalks
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
Bark texture
  • the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
  • the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
Twig winter color
  • brown
  • gray
  • red
  • white
Bud scale number
there are three or more scales on the winter bud, and they overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed
Show All Characteristics
  • Buds or leaf scars
    Bud scale number
    there are three or more scales on the winter bud, and they overlap like shingles, with one edge covered and the other edge exposed
    Bud scar shape (Fraxinus)
    NA
    Collateral buds
    there are no collateral buds on the sides of the branches
    Leaf scar arrangement
    there is one leaf scar per node on the stem or twig
    Superposed buds
    there are no superposed buds on the branch
    Terminal bud
    the branch has a terminal bud on it
    Winter bud distribution
    the winter buds are distributed fairly evenly along the twig
    Winter bud scale hairs
    the winter bud scales are hairy
    Winter bud scales
    the winter bud is perulate (partially or completely covered with one or more scales)
    Winter bud shape
    the winter buds are ovoid (egg-shaped)
    Winter bud stalks
    the winter buds have no stalks
  • Flowers
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Enlarged sterile flowers
    there are no enlarged sterile flowers on the plant
    Flower appearance
    the flowers appear before the leaves
    Flower petal color
    NA
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Hairs on ovary (Amelanchier)
    NA
    Hypanthium present
    the flower does not have a hypanthium
    Inflorescence type
    the inflorescence is an ament (catkin; slender, usually pendulous inflorescence with crowded unisexual flowers)
    Number of pistils
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower lacks sepals and petals
    Petal appearance
    NA
    Petal fusion
    NA
    Sepal appearance
    NA
    Sepal cilia (Ilex)
    NA
    Sepal tip glands
    NA
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    NA
    Stamen number
    • 10
    • 6
    • 7
    • 8
    • 9
    Stamen position relative to petals
    NA
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Nut with spines (Fagaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    there are no wings on the fruit
  • Glands or sap
    Sap color
    the sap is clear and watery
    Stalked glands on fruit (Rosa)
    NA
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is a tree
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf has hairs on it
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf blade base shape
    • The base of the leaf blade is cordate (heart-shaped, with rounded lobes)
    • the base of the leaf blade is truncate (ends abruptly in a more or less straight line as though cut off)
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    there is a noticeable powdery or waxy bloom on the underside of the leaf
    Leaf blade edges
    • the edge of the leaf blade has lobes, or it has both teeth and lobes
    • the edge of the leaf blade has teeth
    Leaf blade edges (Acer)
    NA
    Leaf blade flatness
    the leaf is flat (planar) at the edges
    Leaf blade hairs
    • NA
    • the leaf blade has tangled or woolly-looking hairs, without glands
    Leaf blade length
    50–85 mm
    Leaf blade scales
    there are no scales on the leaf blades
    Leaf blade shape
    the leaf blade is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade texture
    • the leaf blade is coriaceous (has a firm, leathery texture)
    • the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade translucent dots
    there are no translucent dots on the leaf blade
    Leaf blade vein pattern
    the main veins of the leaf blade are pinnate (the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the main central vein) and non-arcuate (not arched towards the leaf tip)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base toward the tip
    Leaf blade width
    40–80 mm
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they wither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the plant is broad-leaved (with broadly flattened leaf blades)
    Leaf lobe tips (Quercus)
    NA
    Leaf midrib glands
    the midrib of the leaf blade lacks glands on the upper surface
    Leaf stalk
    the leaves have leaf stalks
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf stalk nectaries
    there are no nectaries on the leaf stalk
    Leaf stalk shape
    the leaf stalk is not flattened
    Leaf teeth
    the leaf blade margin is serrate (with forward-pointing) or dentate (with outward-pointing) with medium-sized to coarse teeth
    Leaf teeth hairs (Carya)
    NA
    Leaf type
    the leaf blade is simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaves per node
    there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on the plant, or they fall off as the leaf expands
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of forests
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of an odor, or it has an unpleasant or repellant odor
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Aerial roots
    the plant has no aerial roots
    Bark texture
    • the bark of an adult plant is ridged or plated
    • the bark of an adult plant is thin and smooth
    Branch brittleness (willows only)
    NA
    Branch cross-section
    the branch is circular in cross-section, or it has five or more sides, so that there are no sharp angles
    First-year cane (Rubus)
    NA
    Lenticels on twigs
    there are clearly lenticels on the twigs
    Pith shape
    the outline of the pith in a twig is roughly round
    Short shoots
    there are peg- or knob-like shoots present
    Twig bloom
    there is no bloom on the twig
    Twig hairs
    the twigs have hairs, but the hairs do not have glands
    Twig papillae (Vaccinium species only)
    NA
    Twig scales
    there are no scales on the twig surface
    Twig winter color
    • brown
    • gray
    • red
    • white
    Wings on branch
    the branch does not have wings on it
    armature on plant
    the plant does not have spines, prickles, or thorns

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present, invasive
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

No

Synonyms

  • Populus alba var. bolleana Lauche

Family

Salicaceae

Genus

Populus

Need Help?

Get Help

Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Populus alba L. E

white poplar. Populus alba L. var. bolleana Lauche • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Fields, roadsides, forest borders, waste areas, railroads, near dwellings.

1×4. Populus alba × Populus grandidentata Populus ×‌rouleauiana Boivin is a rare poplar hybrid in New England known from CT, MA. It has leaves borne on variable petioles, with most only somewhat compressed. The leaf blades, especially those toward the apex of the shoot, are abaxially moderately to densely tomentose, the tomentum sometimes in patches leaving much of the proximal leaf blade glabrous (rarely with some leaves with the entire abaxial surface glabrous). The 
leaf blade margins most resemble P. grandidentata, though the teeth tend tend to be fewer and some blades show obscure lobes (the hybrid has 4–12 teeth per margin and 
 P. grandidentata has 5–14 teeth per margin).

1×7. Populus alba × Populus tremula Populus ×‌canescens (Ait.) J.E. Smith is an uncommon hybrid poplar that has escaped from cultivation in CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. It resembles P. alba in some aspects but has leaf blades that are merely dentate (i.e., the blades are not lobed or only scarcely so), the proximal ones sparsely to moderately tomentose abaxially with gray, brown-white, or sordid-white hairs (rather than bright white), and petioles that vary from compressed to subterete. The floral scales are prominently lacerate with 7–9 lobes, and the staminate flowers have 8–15 stamens (rather than floral scales merely dentate with many apical teeth and staminate flowers with 5–10 stamens in P. alba).

1×8. Populus alba × Populus tremuloides Populus ×‌heimburgeri Boivin is a rare poplar hybrid that is known from MA. It has first leaves that are tomentose on the abaxial surface of the blades with white-gray hairs and blade margins with (4–) 6–8 large, blunt teeth (only rare blades show any sign of the lobing of P. alba). The new leaves are similar in regard to pubescence but have mostly 11–17 small teeth (i.e., approaching the morphology of P. tremuloides). It is further characterized by petioles that vary from compressed to subterete.