The Populus Tremuloides
is commonly known as Aspen
, Quaking Aspen
, as well as Trembling Aspen< Go Back
Quaking aspen is the most widely distributed tree in North America. It
occurs from Newfoundland west to Alaska and south to Virginia, Missouri,
Nebraska, and northern Mexico. A few scattered populations occur
further south in Mexico to Guanajuato [99
]. Quaking aspen is
distributed fairly continuously in the East. Distribution is patchy in
the West, with trees confined to suitable sites. Density is greatest in
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, and Alaska; each of those
states contains at least 2 million acres of commercial quaking aspen
forest. Maine, Utah, and central Canada also have large acreages of
quaking aspen [89
The scientific name of quaking aspen is Populus tremuloides Michx.
]. There are no currently
recognized subspecies or varieties [64
and Smith [136
] recognize a form with extremely broad leaves, P.
tremuloides forma reniformis Tidestr., that occurs in northeastern North
Quaking aspen is in subsection Trepidae of the genus Populus. Some
authorities consider the Trepidae aspens a single taxonomic entity.
Under this treatment, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen (P. grandidentata),
European aspen (P. tremula), and three aspens occurring in Asia are
classed together as a single, circumglobal superspecies [126
Quaking aspen hybridizes naturally with bigtooth aspen and white poplar
(P. alba), a naturalized European species. Hybrid quaking
aspen-bigtooth aspen swarms occur in the Niobrara River valley of
Wyoming and Nebraska [64
], and quaking aspen-bigtooth aspen hybrids are
common in some eastern locales [73
]. Black cottonwood (P. trichocarpa)-
quaking aspen hybrids occur rarely in Alaska [82
Quaking aspen has been crossed with several Populus species,
particularly the Eurasian species gray poplar (P. canescens), European
aspen, and white poplar, in tree breeding programs [88
Quaking aspen is a major cover type in North America. In Minnesota,
Wisconsin, and Utah, quaking aspen occupies more land than any other
forest type. Quaking aspen also occurs in a large number of other
forest cover types over its extensive range. It is common in spruce-fir
(Picea-Abies spp.) types of the Great Lakes States and central Canada
and in mixed northern hardwoods. Mixed jack pine (Pinus banksiana) and
quaking aspen occur on the Precambrain shield in Canada and Minnesota.
In the Rocky Mountains, quaking aspen groves are scattered throughout
Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir (Picea engelmannii-A. lasiocarpa)
forests. Quaking aspen is common in mixed conifer forests of New
Mexico, Arizona, and California. At its lower altitudinal limit in the
western United States, quaking aspen is associated with scrub oaks
(Quercus spp.) or sagebrush (Artemisia spp.). Prostrate quaking aspen
occur above timberline . Throughout its range, quaking aspen
occurs in mid- to upper riparian zones [56,123].
Quaking aspen is listed as a dominant species in over 100 habitat, plant
community, and vegetation typings. A comprehensive list of these
publications can be obtained by using the Citation Retrieval System
(CRS). In CRS, a combination search using the keywords POPTRE and HTS
(Populus tremuloides and habitat types), and a second search using the
keywords POPTRE and COMM TYPES (P. tremuloides and community types),
will produce a list of habitat, plant community, and vegetation typings
describing quaking aspen as a dominant species. The search can be
narrowed by including the keyword for the state or administrative unit
of interest (e.g., search: POPTRE and HTS and CO).
Associated shrub species: East - Shrub species commonly associated with
quaking aspen in the East include beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta),
American hazel (C. americana), mountain maple (Acer spicatum), speckled
alder (Alnus rugosa), American green alder (A. viridis spp. crispa),
dwarf bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), raspberries and
blackberries (Rubus spp.), willows (Salix spp.), and gooseberries (Ribes
Great Plains - Additional species occurring with quaking aspen in the
prairie provinces included snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.), highbush
cranberry (Viburnum edule), limber honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica),
red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), western serviceberry (Amelanchier
alnifolia), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), Bebb willow (Salix
bebbiana), and roses (Rosa spp.).
Alaska - Bebb willow and roses are also associated with quaking aspen in
Alaska. Other common shrub associates are Scouler willow (S.
scouleriana), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), mountain cranberry
(Vaccinium vitis-idaea), and highbush cranberry.
Rocky Mountains - Mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus),
western serviceberry, chokecherry, common juniper (Juniperus communis),
Oregon-grape (Berberis repens), Wood's rose (R. woodsii), myrtle
pachistima (Pachistima myrsinites), redberry elder (Sambucus pubens),
and a number of Ribes species are associated with quaking aspen in the
Rocky Mountains .
Pacific Northwest - In valleys west of the Cascades in Oregon and
Washington, quaking aspen alternates dominance with Douglas hawthorn
(Crataegus douglasii). Quaking aspen grows through the Douglas hawthorn
overstory, resulting in reduced vigor of Douglas hawthorn. Quaking
aspen eventually dies back, releasing Douglas hawthorn in the understory
Associated herbaceous species: East - Herbs commonly found in the
understory of quaking aspen in the East include largeleaf aster (Aster
macrophyllus), wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis), Canada beadruby
(Maianthemum canadense), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), yellow beadlily
(Clintonia borealis), roughleaf ricegrass (Oryzopsis asperifolia),
sweet-scented bedstraw (Galium triflorum), sweetfern (Comptonia
perigrina), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), bracken fern (Pteridium
aquilinum), sedges (Carex spp.), and goldenrods (Solidago spp.).
West - The herbaceous component of quaking aspen communities in the West
is too diverse to list. Forbs dominate most sites .
< Go Back
Much of the information presented here is attributed to:
Howard, Janet L. 1996. Populus tremuloides. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available at USDA Forest Service.