Balsam poplar

Balsam poplar

Populus balsamifera

Plant Characteristics

Plant Type Pioneer Tree
Height (m) 15-25
Width (m) 8-12
Growth Rate Fast
Pollination Strategy Wind
Flower Period April
Forage Value Fair
Fruit Type Capsule
Edible Fruit No
Fruit/Seeds Available Summer
Traits Salt Tolerant, Suckering

Site Characteristics

Natural Region Boreal, Aspen Parkland, Foothills, Grassland
Hardiness Zone 0-8
Soil Texture Clay, Loam, Sand
Drainage Poor-Moderate
Moisture Tolerance Wet, Moist
Sun Exposure Full

Description / Details

Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera)

Balsam poplar is a fast growing, fast suckering tree that prefers moist to wet sites, and can handle seasonal flooding. Indeed, it is well adapted to flooding: its deep, binding root system is excellent for holding together the banks of rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. Further, its famous (or infamous) white fluff is timed perfectly with the June flood season, sprouting up on the exposed wet soils that are left as the waters recede.

The seeds of balsam poplar are eaten by birds, and the sticky fragrant leaf buds have medicinal properties, and can be used in salves and infused oils. Its wood is less valued commercially than aspen, but is used to make plywood, OSB, crates, pallets, and furniture.

Balsam poplar is an excellent, commonly used pioneering species for Eco-Buffers, and is also used extensively in riparian buffers. Unlike aspen, balsam poplar grows readily from cuttings (refer to AWES’ Stem Cuttings factsheet). Existing balsam poplar forest cover can also be expanded by root pruning along the forest’s edge (refer to AWES’ Root Pruning factsheet).

This database was created by AWES, with support from Cows and Fish (Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society) and the Alberta Native Plant Council. Contact AWES for a list of references used. Financial support for this database was provided by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
Government of Canada Logo
Government of Alberta Logo
Canadian Agricultural Partnership Logo