Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) is a common tree in the Basin and Range region especially at elevation between 6,500 and 10,000 feet. It is actually one of the most widespread trees in North America. Aspen are often referred to as "quakies," but they also are known as trembling poplar, golden aspen and mountain aspen.
Quaking aspen grows on a variety of soils ranging from shallow and rocky to deep loamy sands and heavy clays. The best quaking aspen stands in the Basin and Range are on soils developed from igneous rock, and from neutral or calcareous shales and limestones. Aspen tend to grow well wherever soil moisture is not limiting.
Aspen can grow between 40-100 feet in height. They have white, smooth bark that is distinctive. It can be confused with birch however birch bark peels off the trunk like paper where aspen bark does not. Aspen have characteristic black scars on the white bark where old limbs have fallen due to to self pruning. The leaves are green, alternate, slightly toothed and are cordate to round in shape. The top of the leaves are a darker, glossy green, while the bottoms are paler. The leaves turn bright gold in the fall, sometimes turning bright orange and red.
Aspens are really neat, unique trees. All of the trees in a stand of aspen tend to be from one single organism, with most of their "body" residing underground. They have massive root systems that can reach up to 20 acres in size. When there is enough sunlight, roots sprout up from the ground to form white "trunks", which then leaf out and look like individual trees. This is a type of Asexual reproduction--where offspring arise from a single organism and offspring are basically a clone of the parent. Aspen will reproduce sexually, as a flowering plant, only after severe fire and/or under ideal environmental conditions.
http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/populus/tremuloides.htm accessed 9/2014
http://www.nps.gov/brca/naturescience/quakingaspen.htm accessed 9/2014
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