Characteristics of Black Poplar Tree (Populus nigra) in the Wild

Populus nigra
Black Poplar (Populus nigra) is a species of poplar tree belonging to the Aigeiros genus Populus, native to Europe, central Asia, and northwest Africa. In Germany, this tree is known as Schwarz-Pappel or Saarbaum.

This tree can grow to medium to large sizes, reaching 20-30 meters in height. Usually, the rootstock can be up to 1.5 meters in diameter, but some unusual individual trees in France have grown old enough to have a much larger trunk diameter, ie more than 3 meters.

There are three defined subspecies and some botanists differentiate the fourth subspecies:

  • Populus nigra subsp. nigra – Central and Eastern Europe. Leaves and shoots bald (hairless), bark grayish brown, thick and wrinkled.
  • Populus nigra subsp. betulifolia – Northwestern Europe (France, Great Britain, Ireland). The veins of the leaves and shoots are downy, the bark is grayish-brown, thick, and wrinkled, often with thick thorns, the stems are usually very inclined.
  • Populus nigra subsp. caudina – the Mediterranean, southwest Asia. The bark is smooth, almost white.

Populus nigra subsp. betulifolia is one of the rarest trees in Great Britain and Ireland, with only about 7,000 known trees, of which around 600 have been confirmed as female.


Characteristics of Black Poplar Leaf

Populus nigra Leaf
Source: Tree Library

The leaves are triangular, 5-8 cm long and 6-8 cm wide, and green on both surfaces.


Characteristics of Black Poplar Flower

Populus nigra Flower

Black Poplar includes dioecious, male and female flowers on different plants, with flowers on catkins and pollination by wind.


Characteristics of the Black Poplar Tree

Populus nigra Tree

The tree grows in lowland areas and moist soil. Like most other pioneer species, this tree has fast growth and is capable of growing many new tree seedlings in open areas.

The trunk has brownish-gray bark with a rough x-shaped structure, which is very characteristic of the transverse cork beads. The formation of water veins and bumps often leads to the odd shape of the stem.

Black Poplar has a wide distribution area throughout Europe and is also found in northern Africa and central and western Asia. The distribution area extends from the Mediterranean in the south to about 64° latitude in the north and from the British Isles in the west to Kazakhstan and China in the east. The distribution area also includes the Caucasus and most of the Middle East.


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