Quaking Aspen

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Quaking Aspen
Created On: Sep 15, 2006
Last Edited On: Sep 15, 2006

Quaking Aspen

Quaking aspen trees (Populus tremuloides), with their shimmering golden fall leaves, are one of my favorite trees. I grew up in Bishop, California, on the eastern side of the Sierra, where they grow abundantly in canyons above 8,000 feet including Bishop Creek and Rock Creek. However, we are very fortunate to have them growing on the western side of the Sierra as well. They can be found up along the Great Western Divide Highway in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. The best times to view the fall colors are generally after the first frost in late September or early October.

Quaking aspen have a wider range than any other North American tree. They grow from Alaska and Newfoundland south to central Mexico. They love cold weather and are thus found at higher elevations and in northern latitudes.

An aspen grove looks as if it is made up of separate trees, but the trees usually share a root system. Essentially, they are one organism with many roots, an organism that can grow to huge proportions, cross a meadow or climb a mountain. There is a 106-acre stand of aspens south of Salt Lake City, Utah, that contends with the General Sherman giant sequoia tree to be the largest living organism on earth. Visitors to this stand may think they are hiking through an aspen forest, but it is all one tree, about 47,000 genetically identical stems rising from a common root system.

Populus is the genus name, which will remind some of poplars. Poplar trees, cottonwood trees, willows, and aspen are all in the same botanical family, Salicaceae. Salicaceae will remind perhaps the more inquisitive of salicylic acid, or another derivative of this chemical, acetyl salicylic acid, a.k.a. asprin. Salicylic acid can be derived from willow bark and willow bark tea is one of the oldest natural remedies for our everyday aches and pains.

Tremuloides comes from the Latin word tremulus meaning trembling or quaking. Look closely at one of the leaf stalks and you will see it is flattened and thus allows the leaf to quake in a breeze and create a rustling noise. There is nothing nicer than walking through an aspen grove on a beautiful autumn day and seeing the leaves shimmer and hearing their voices.

The golden leaves contrast wonderfully with their whitish gray bark. Aspens are usually around 20-50 feet high with a spread of 10-30 feet. They typically live to be 80 to 100 years old.

Quaking aspens are quick to spread into disturbed areas, such as areas devastated by fire or an avalanche. Many animals depend on aspen groves; some eat the twigs and bark including beaver, elk, and deer. Many birds such as Mountain Chickadees, Violet Green Swallows, and Red-breasted Nuthatches use aspens as a nesting site, some building on branches, some making cavities in the trees' trunks.

Please feel free to add your own photos of quaking aspen trees here!



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Viewing: 1-9 of 9

rasgoat - Sep 15, 2006 10:09 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice page!

I love aspens too, I am told we have them here in northeren parts of New England, but I really can't seem to find a grove. I travel west at least once a year so I can get my dose, among other things only the west has to offer!


tarol - Sep 16, 2006 1:12 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice page!

Thanks. I think I saw some, or maybe they were birch, in Acadia NP in Maine. It was hard to tell since it was in early spring before they had leafed out...

Bob Sihler

Bob Sihler - Nov 14, 2006 4:39 am - Voted 10/10

And it's a great album!

Great photos and excellent information.


tarol - Dec 10, 2006 2:54 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: And it's a great album!

Thank you!

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Dec 9, 2006 7:51 am - Voted 10/10

Very Good!

Very informative page with lots of fine images. I'll see what I can find on my hard drive; I know I have a few to contribute. :-)

--mark d.


tarol - Dec 10, 2006 2:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Very Good!

Thanks, I look forward to seeing your photos!


Eleutheros - Feb 1, 2007 11:04 pm - Voted 10/10


The west's quaking aspen are truly breathtaking, especially in fall. Thanks for posting!


tarol - Feb 2, 2007 2:15 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Aspentacular

You're welcome :)


TyeDyeTwins - Sep 25, 2009 2:59 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Idea.......

Great idea. I love albums like this. Happy Trails out there.

Viewing: 1-9 of 9