quaking aspen

(Populus tremuloides)

Conservation Status
quaking aspen
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Quaking aspen is a very common and very widespread hardwood tree. It may be the most widely distributed tree in North America. It is the most abundant tree in Minnesota. It is a successional species that pioneers disturbed sites and is gradually replaced by slower-growing species. It is fast growing and short lived, commonly lasting only 80 to 100 years. Older individuals can survive up to 200 years. It reproduces rapidly by root suckers often forming large clonal colonies. Mature trees in the state are usually 40 to 60 tall and 7 to 12 in diameter at breast height. Large individuals can reach over 90 in height. Some of the tallest quaking aspens in North America are in north-central Minnesota.

It rises on a single stem from a shallow, wide-spreading root system. On well-drained soils it develops a many large and small, branched roots extending horizontally, diagonally, and vertically from the trunk in all directions (heart root system).

The trunk is slender and free of branches on the lower part. The branches are short and stout. The crown is narrow, open, and rounded.

The bark on young trees is smooth with a waxy appearance, and pale grayish-green to whitish-green or almost white. It does not peel like paper birch. As it ages it becomes thick and gray or brown, with broad, flat ridges and shallow furrows, at least near the base of the tree.

The current-season twigs are slender, shiny, hairless, and dark green or reddish-brown with oval, orange dots (lenticels). They are round in cross section and have star-shaped pith. They turn gray and rough in the second year. Quaking aspen is self-pruning, dropping numerous twigs with the leaves in autumn.

Terminal buds are brown, hairless, slightly resinous, and have a shiny or varnished appearance. They are not aromatic. They are about ¼ long, slender, cone-shaped, and pointed. They are covered with 6 or 7 bud scales. Lateral buds are similar but smaller. They are appressed against the twig with the tip pointing inwards. The leaf scars are small and triangular with 3 bundle scars.

The leaves are deciduous, alternate, thin, firm, and not lobed or divided (simple). They hang downward on hairless, 1 to 2¾ long leaf stalks. The leaf stalks are flattened perpendicular to the plane of the leaf blade, at least near the blade attachment. It is often longer than the leaf blade. The flattened leaf stalk causes the leaf to tremble, or quake, in the wind, giving the tree its common name. The leaf blades are broadly egg-shaped to almost round, 1 to 3 long, and 1¼ to 3 wide. They are 0.9 to 1.2 times as long as wide. They taper abruptly at the tip to a short point with concave sides along the tip. They are broadly rounded or almost straight across at the base. The upper surface is dark green or bluish green, shiny or waxy, and hairless. The lower surface is similar but paler green. The margins are finely toothed with 20 to 50 irregular, shallow, blunt teeth per side. The teeth do not have embedded glands. There are no visible warty glands where the leaf blade attaches to the stalk. In autumn the leaves turn bright yellow.

Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. They appear before the leaves in early April to early mid-May. Both male and female flowers are borne in crowded, pendulous, stalkless catkins on 2nd year branchlets. Male catkins are 1 to 3 long, female catkins are 1 to 2 long. Female catkins elongate when fruiting, becoming 1½ to 6 long.

The fruit is an egg-shaped, to ¼ long, 2-valved capsule. Each capsule contains numerous seeds. The seeds are released early mid-May to early June. They have cottony hairs attached and are dispersed by wind.




40 to 60




The champion quaking aspen in Minnesota is in St. Loius County on public property in or near Voyageurs National Park. In 2020 it was measured at 103 tall and 126 in circumference (40 in diameter), with a crown spread of 40.


Flower Color


Reddish or greenish-yellow


Similar Species


Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) bark on young trees is greenish-brown. The leaf stalks are rounded, not flattened. The leaf blades much longer, 3 to 6 long, 1.3 to 2.3 times as long as wide. The underside of the leaf usually has blotchy, copper-colored stains. Each tooth on the leaf margin has a small, embedded gland.


Dry to moist. Uplands. Full sun.




Early April to early mid-May


Pests and Diseases


Gall midge (Harmandiola cavernosa)




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.








Very common and widespread

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Malpighiales (nances, willows, and allies)  


Salicaceae (willow)  
  Subfamily Salicoideae  
  Tribe Saliceae  
  Genus Populus (poplars, cottonwoods, and aspens)  
  Section Populus (aspens and allies)  

Subordinate Taxa






Populus aurea

Populus cercidiphylla

Populus X polygonifolia

Populus tremula ssp. tremuloides

Populus tremuloides var. aurea

Populus tremuloides var. cercidiphylla

Populus tremuloides var. intermedia

Populus tremuloides var. magnifica

Populus tremuloides var. rhomboidea

Populus tremuloides var. vancouveriana

Populus vancouveriana


Common Names


golden aspen

mountain aspen



quaking aspen

trembling aspen

trembling poplar













A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.



A group of genetically identical individual plants derived from a single parent plant by means of vegetative reproduction.


Heart root system

A root system in which many large and small, branched roots extend horizontally, diagonally, and vertically from the trunk in all directions.



A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.


Simple leaf

A leaf that is not divided into leaflets, though it may be deeply lobed or cleft.



A basal shoot rising from the roots or from a bud at the base of a shrub or tree.

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Dan W. Andree


October Aspens...

Almost look like birch trees. They caught my eye with the overcast sky in the background and lighting in the foreground set them off.

  quaking aspen  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos


    quaking aspen      


    quaking aspen      


    quaking aspen   quaking aspen  



  Populus tremuloides
Blake C. Willson
  Populus tremuloides  

Trembling Aspen

  Populus tremuloides
Matt Lavin
  Populus tremuloides  

Native tree to 45 m tall, with generally smooth white bark from the base (furrowed with age), orbicular leaf blades born from laterally flattened petioles, throughout the western half of Montana along streams, in wetlands, and on slopes north-facing and similarly protected slopes.




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Other Videos
  Tress with Don Leopold- quaking aspen

Uploaded on Sep 23, 2011

No description available.

  Cool Things in Nature!!! Ecosode: Quaking Aspen!

Uploaded on May 1, 2011

Hello and welcome to Cool Things in Nature! In today's ecosode, Coolia teaches us about the Quaking Aspen tree! It is possibly the largest organism on Earth! Watch and learn!

  Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
Steve McGuinness

Uploaded on Aug 28, 2009

Primary succession after a fire: the hummingbirds are loving those new flowers (Penstomen barbatus); they feed on those. Aspens are highly competitive after forest fires; they typically sprout when the soil temperature increases after a fire.

  Populus Tremuloides

Published on Apr 2, 2012

Info about Quaking Aspen

  MyNature Apps; Identifying Quaking Aspen, Populus tremuloides

Uploaded on May 30, 2011

How to identify Quaking Aspen, Populus tremuloides




Visitor Sightings

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  Dan W. Andree

Location: Rural Norman Co. Mn.

Almost look like birch trees. They caught my eye with the overcast sky in the background and lighting in the foreground set them off.

quaking aspen  
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