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Medicinal Plants of the SW: Populus tremuloides

 

Populus tremuloides 

Taxonomy: Magnoliaphyta (angiosperm), Magnoliopsida (dicot), Salicaceae,

Common names: Quaking Aspen, Trembling Aspen, Aspen


 by Dominique Gaskin and Melanie Sanchez, Summer 2000

 Description:

The most common name for Populus Tremuloides Michx. is quaking aspen. The quaking aspen is a plant native to the Southwestern United States, as well as North America in general. It is a tree that grows in mountainous regions where the weather is cooler and water is more abundant that the desert areas of the Southwest. The quaking aspen can be found in North America in damp or moist areas. Also, you can find these trees next to rivers or valleys, in Alaska, Rocky Mountains, New Mexico or Arizona at a elevation of 6,500 to 10,000 ft. Quaking aspen can be identified by it's leaves and bark. The leaves are round and finely toothed. In the summer months the leaves have a deep green color. In the fall, the leaves turn a golden color. They look almost like gold coins. When the wind blows the leaves appear to be quivering, trembling or quaking thus the origin of the common name. The bark of the quaking aspen has a distinctive white color. The bark is useful medicinally as well as nutritionally. The bark is a good source of protein especially in the fall and winter months when protein levels are high relative to other plant species (Fire Effects Information System).

 
photo by Melanie Sanchez

Height and Form:

Aspen has a rapid growth rate growing to be 50 - 100'. It has smooth, narrow white bark with a crown top. The leaves are round, short, pointy, and shiny.

 
photo by Melanie Sanchez

 
photo by Melanie Sanchez

Parts Used: Bark.

The bark has properties that help treat Urinary Tract Infections, diarrhea, and painful bowel movement.

Propagation:

This is a tree that prefers damp or moist area, loose ground to a little rocky soil. The manner in which quaking Aspen grows makes it very advantageous because certain traits can be selected for. The quaking aspen grows clonally. This means that there is one mother plant and the resulting plants are exact replicas. It is equivalent to the runner concept with the Anemopsis californica. Quaking aspen is very difficult to root. The most successful are root cutting taken from young sprouts, however these as well have low success rates.

Medicinal Uses:

fever-reducer, pain-relief, fevers, anorexia, anti-inflammatory, arthritis, and rheumatic pain.

People who have used this plant:

Native Americans used the bark for eye washes sore eyes. Ojibawa people used the bark and bear fat for ear aches.

Non- Medicinal Uses:

The Quaking Aspen has a great influence on the industrial market. The wood is used for various types of boards, such as particleboard, waferboard, oriented strandboard and for pulp. The fibers of the bark can be used to make a fine paper product. Another advantage of Aspen is its ability to stabilize or rehabilitate disturbed sites. Aspen would be used in an area where fire or deforestation has harmed the area. This is because the trees produce a litter that is abundant in nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, and calcium. When the litter decays the product is a nutrient rich soil for which new vegetation can propagate (Howard, 1996).

 
photo by Melanie Sanchez

Chemistry:

A few of the chemical compounds attributed to the medicinal value are salicin and populin. Both of these compounds have properties similar to aspirin, such as, fever reducing abilities, pain relief, and anti-inflammation (Mnimh, 1996).

 
photo by Melanie Sanchez

Landscape Uses:

Used to decorate lawns, provides shade, and for revegetation in burned areas.

REFERENCES:

· Fire Effects Information System. September, 1996
· Southwest Landscaping with Native Plants, Judith Phillips. Museum of New Mexico Press, Copyright 1987
· The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, Andrew Chevallier Mnimh. Dorling Kindersley Limited Copyright 1996


 


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Updated February 13, 2008

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