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Populus

Populus tremula - aspen

Populus tremula ©jr

The aspen is an easy tree to recognise in Finland from the round leaves. The leaf stalk is long and flattened so that even the gentlest breeze produces the typical fluttering in both movement and sound. In young trees the bark is a smooth grey, which makes the species stand out when seen from a distance; later they become vertically furrowed. From close up, the trunks can often be seen to be decorated by splashes of a yellow lichen (Xanthoria parietina), called variously common orange lichen, yellow scale, maritime sunburst lichen and shore lichen, among others.

The 10 cm pods of the female catkins open to release tufts of white seed cotton, which are spread far and wide by the wind. The seeds contain no reserve nutrition so very few of them germinate to grow into seedlings and later new trees. Mainly the species spreads by means of roots suckers. The clones arising from a particular parent do not mix with those from another tree and quite often in autumn clone groups can be distinguished as patches of slightly different colour, some reddish, others more yellow, indicating the borderlines between the clones.

The aspen seldom exceeds 100 years in age. The hollow trunks age attractively and support a wide range of mosses and lichens, not to mention a varied fauna, as they slowly rot and become, finally, humus.

 

Populus nigra ’Charkowiensis’ - black poplar ’Charkowiensis’ No common name in English

This is one of the rarest trees in Finland. It was originally brought from St. Petersburg over a century ago and is known to have been planted in Helsinki and Turku, at least. Only a single tree is known to still exist, in Helsinki. The young tree growing at Mustila is from a cutting from a branch of this tree, broken off in a storm.

Besides its value from a cultural-historical aspect, this is also an attractive tree. With rising pale branches, the crown displays a beautiful funnel shape. Leaves are triangular, swishing in the wind. It is a healthy tree, completely hardy on the south-west coast and perhaps further inland.

Originally from the city of Kharkiv in Ukraine, its history is unclear but many of its features would seem to indicate that it is a hybrid of black poplar (P. nigra), native in Europe and deep into Russian territory, with some other, pillar-shaped poplar

 

Populus maximowiczii - Japanese (or Maximowicz’s balsam) poplar

populus_maximowiczii_kumpula_jsaarinen.jpg

This species is one of the most beautiful of the poplars. Its large thick round leaves form attractive layers along the wide-spreading branches, their pale undersides as if illuminating the shade of the tree. The catkins of female trees can be up to 20cms long. Leaves in their autumn colours could be used for their decorative qualities in wreaths and bouquets.

Growing naturally in sunny flood meadows and river valleys, this poplar is found naturally in the Russian far east, in China, Korea, and Japan, where it can reach 40m. In Finland it also seems to develop quickly into a large tree, in the right place.

At Mustila, this has been one of the most successful of the poplars. Several sources from Hokkaido are under trial, and all have so far grown well and remained healthy.

 

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