Monday, March 29, 2010

American Hardwoods: Aspen

Spectacluar displays of color in red and yellow, the aspen is the common name for trees in the Populus genus. A nearly round leaf on flattened leaf stems with the ability to twist and bend the leaves (without a whisp of wind) giving the tree the appearance of quaking. This shaky movement defines the aspen with nicknames like Trembling Aspen or Quaking Aspen.

They typically grow in clonal colonies from a single seedling, supported by a massive root system that can outlive the trees (40 - 150 years) by thousands of years. One colony in Utah is considered to be 80,000 years old. Aspen colonies can survive forest fires, since the roots are below the heat from fire.

The ancient woodlands of the aspen are gaining popularity in forestry, because of the fast growth rate and ability to regnerate from sprouts and does not require sowing or planting.

Aspen sapwood is white and soft with a light brown hearwood. It's low flammability makes it ideal for wooden striking matches. Wood of the aspen has a very low bending classification that reduces spliting from nailing and makes it easier to tool. Specialized uses include sauna interiors and chopsticks.

Aspens contain compounds related to aspirin, and their leaves and leaf buds has been used to treat burns, irritations, aches and swollen joints. Bitter herbal tea from leaves and bark has been used to treat mild urinaty tract inflammations.

If you should want to hug an aspen, I would totally understand!

Join us next week when we find Basswood in the American Hardwood series on Edge of the Wildwood.

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