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Grey Poplar

Populus x canescens

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Salicaceae (Willow)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
25 metres tall
Gardens, parks, riverbanks, riversides, seaside, waterside, woodland.

Green, no petals
Pendulous catkins with red anthers. The male catkins grow up to 10cm long. The female catkins are up to 4cm long. Wind-pollinated.
Small white, woolly seeds.
The leaves are ovoid to round and slightly lobed. They are white beneath and dark green on the upper surfaces. The leaves alternate along the stems. Grey Poplar is a hybrid between Aspen (Populus tremula) and White Poplar (Populus alba). It is quite similar in appearance to White Poplar but the leaves are less deeply lobed. The leaves, young twigs and buds are all covered in white downy hairs. The bark is smooth and grey but it becomes ridged with maturity. The leaves turn yellow in autumn.
Other Names:
Gray Poplar.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Populus x canescens is a hybrid species of poplar tree that is believed to be a cross between Populus alba (white poplar) and Populus deltoides (eastern cottonwood). It is a fast-growing, large deciduous tree that can reach heights of up to 25 meters. The leaves are large and triangular in shape, with a glossy green upper surface and a pale, hairy underside. The bark is smooth and gray-brown in color. The tree produces catkins that contain both male and female flowers, which appear before the leaves in early spring. The tree is known for its fast growth and ability to tolerate a wide range of soil types. It is often used as a ornamental tree in parks and gardens, for stabilizing riverbanks, for timber and also for paper production.


Grey poplar, also known as Populus x canescens, is a deciduous tree that belongs to the family Salicaceae. This tree is a hybrid between two other types of poplar trees, namely the European aspen (Populus tremula) and the white poplar (Populus alba).

Grey poplar is a fast-growing tree that can reach up to 25 meters in height and up to 1 meter in diameter at the base of the trunk. The leaves of the tree are triangular in shape with a pointed tip, and are covered with a fine grayish-white hair, giving the tree its distinctive grey appearance. The bark of the tree is smooth and grayish-green when young, becoming rough and dark gray with age.

Grey poplar is native to Europe and western Asia, but it has been widely planted in other parts of the world due to its fast growth and ornamental value. The tree is often used in landscaping and for erosion control, as its extensive root system helps to stabilize soil on hillsides and riverbanks.

One of the unique features of the grey poplar is its ability to regenerate from the roots. This means that if the trunk of the tree is cut down, new shoots will quickly sprout from the roots, allowing the tree to quickly regrow. This feature has led to the tree being used in coppicing, a traditional method of woodland management that involves cutting the tree down to its base every few years to promote new growth for firewood or other purposes.

In addition to its ornamental and ecological value, grey poplar has also been used for a variety of practical purposes throughout history. The wood of the tree is lightweight and relatively soft, making it ideal for making pulp and paper. It is also used for making furniture, plywood, and other wood products.

Despite its many benefits, grey poplar is also considered an invasive species in some areas, as it can quickly take over an area and outcompete native vegetation. As with any non-native species, it is important to carefully consider the potential impacts before planting grey poplar in an area where it is not native.

In addition to its practical uses, grey poplar has also been valued for its medicinal properties. The bark of the tree has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, diarrhea, and skin infections. The leaves and buds of the tree have also been used to make teas and tinctures that are said to have a variety of healing properties.

Another interesting aspect of the grey poplar is its role in folklore and mythology. In many cultures, the tree is associated with regeneration and rebirth, due in part to its ability to regrow from the roots. In Norse mythology, the tree was associated with the god Odin, and was believed to have healing properties. In Celtic mythology, the tree was associated with the goddess Brigid, who was said to have used its bark and leaves for healing and protection.

Despite its many benefits and cultural significance, grey poplar is facing a number of threats in the wild. One of the biggest threats is the spread of invasive species, which can outcompete native vegetation and disrupt local ecosystems. Climate change is also a concern, as changing weather patterns and extreme weather events can damage or kill trees.

To help protect grey poplar and other trees, it is important to support conservation efforts and take steps to reduce our impact on the environment. This may include reducing our use of fossil fuels, supporting sustainable forestry practices, and working to control the spread of invasive species.

Grey poplar is also known for its phytoremediation properties, meaning that it can absorb and remove pollutants from the soil and water. The tree's extensive root system and high transpiration rate allow it to draw up large amounts of water and nutrients from the soil, which can help to reduce soil and water pollution.

Studies have shown that grey poplar is particularly effective at removing heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, from contaminated soils. The tree is also effective at removing organic pollutants, such as pesticides and petroleum hydrocarbons, from contaminated water.

In addition to its phytoremediation properties, grey poplar is also valued for its role in carbon sequestration. As a fast-growing tree, it is able to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The wood of the tree can also be used as a renewable source of energy, helping to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Despite its many benefits, grey poplar is not without its challenges. The tree is susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, including cankers, leaf spot, and poplar borers. In addition, the tree's tendency to sprout from the roots can make it difficult to control in some situations, particularly in urban areas where it can interfere with sidewalks and other infrastructure.

Despite these challenges, grey poplar remains a valuable and versatile tree with a rich history and many practical uses. Whether you are interested in conservation, phytoremediation, or simply looking for a fast-growing tree for landscaping or erosion control, grey poplar is definitely worth considering. With proper care and management, this remarkable tree can continue to provide valuable benefits for years to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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