Garden Clippings for Feb 11, 2023

Black Spruce (Picea mariana) is Ontario’s most abundant tree.  I am not sure that I’ve ever seen one in the real, but I probably have plenty of it in my house.

Thousands of square miles of Black Spruce grow in Ontario’s north, mostly north of Lake Superior.  A fraction of it lands up at the lumberyard, cut up into two-by-fours, destined for construction projects.

Ontario’s most plentiful deciduous tree is not Maple or Oak as one would first believe, but is the humble Aspen, also known as Poplar.  If cut up into pieces, Aspen (Populous tremuloides) makes lousy lumber, but if broken down, is a key component for pulp, plywood, particle board, cardboard and pallets.

Poplar or Aspen grows in USA and in all forested areas of Canada, except for the far north.  It is often the first tree to grow in an open area.  Once established it will likely be taken over by more stable trees such as Oak or Spruce.

Several species of Aspen exist, including Trembling, Quaking, Common, Big Tooth, along with Grey Poplar and White Poplar.  Aspens can intermix, like mutts, making positive identification rather difficult.

Aspens as a species are easy to identify.  When young, they have smooth, grey bark, becoming heavily fissured with age.  Poplar leaves are shiny on their upper side, and flutter noisily in the slightest breeze.

Aspens are quick growing, highly adaptable and will grow in practically any soil.  They will not grow in the shade of other trees.

At first blush, Aspens or Poplars sound like highly desirable native trees.  But before rushing out to plant an Aspen in the backyard, city dwellers should think twice.  Aspens are a weak-wooded softwood tree with poor branching structure.  Limbs are likely to fall during nasty windstorms.

Aspen seeds or flowers resemble clumps of tiny strands of cotton and will fall anytime from late spring to summertime, often landing up against air conditioners and in swimming pools.

The roots of Aspen can be aggressive and will seek out sources of water, often clogging up  field tiles and drain pipes.  Aspens usually grow in strands with new seedlings coming up from roots of their nearby parents.

An interesting fact about Aspens is they are one of the world’s biggest living organisms.  Some scientists suggest that colonies or strands of Aspen count as single organisms because new trees sprout as old stems die off.