White Poplar. Won’t be Fooled Again.

Ever since we moved to the area I’ve wondered about a grove of trees at Atterbury FWA. Even my limited knowledge of trees told me they were some sort of birch or aspen tree. But I thought birch and aspen only grow in northern states or high altitude. But I was mistaken on both accounts by White Poplar. And I won’t be Fooled Again. Hopefully.

From my travels to Northern Minnesota in search of winter owls I knew birches/aspens grew in the Sax-Zim Bog area.

February 2011 – N. Minnesota – Notice the Aspen/Birch Trees in the background? The temperature is -25F.

And from running my BBS routes at 9500′ in Western Colorado that aspen trees grow at altitude.

Quaking Aspens lined Divide Road at 9500′ on the Uncompahgre Plateau.

But from driving around the Central Till Plain of Central Indiana there aren’t many birches or aspens.

Except I keep passing by this group on the north end of Atterbury FWA. Why are they here?

A grove of Birch/Aspen on the north end of Atterbury FWA.

So that was my starting point for serious study of Indiana’s Native Trees. With Native being the key word.

I arrived mid-morning and promptly set off taking notes on the grove. The trees were approximately 80′ high and the larger trees were 20″ at shoulder height.  Their overall structure are erect and narrow with branches growing vertical.  Most of the bark was white with a tint of yellow. On the base the bark was gray and furrowed, expected on mature trees.

Mid-height the bark was smooth and gray.
And the lower trunk was dark and furrowed.

At this point I was pretty certain these were Big-toothed Aspen, the expected tree for Central Indiana. There were no low limbs to check a twig, so I looked through my binoculars for confirmation. I expected a slim, straight, gray twig with single, pointed end buds.

Instead I got knobby twig with multiple white buds. What was going on here?

 

Here are the buds and twigs I was expecting.
White Poplar
But here is what I got. Not at all what I expected. The twigs had multiple buds on a knobby twig.

Checking the field guides it was quickly apparent what was going on here. The tree was a White Poplar Populus alba, also known as Silver Poplar.  An import from Eurasia. The tree is very similar to our Big-toothed Aspen except it turns blacker with age. And of course the difference in the before mentioned twigs and buds.

Notice how these Quaking Aspens in Colorado are almost all white compared to the blackish trunks of the White Poplars above.

Not sure why someone would have planted them at Atterbury except they are an evasive. So I can’t add to my Native Trees of Indiana list.

So as each of my field guides say, “it is by comparing all the details that identification is achieved, and the combination of determining factors is not the same in each case.” (The Tree Identification Book, pg. 100)

Sounds a lot like birding.

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