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Railway Poplar

Populus x euramericana

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Salicaceae (Willow)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
25 metres tall
Gardens, roadsides, woodland.

Red, no petals
The flowers are hanging catkins. The male catkins are reddish and females are greenish.
Woolly seeds.
Triangular-shaped, smooth, glossy leaves. The young leaves are pale brown. Commonly seen growing at the side of railway lines.
Other Names:
Euramerican Poplar.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Populus x euramericana is a hybrid species of poplar tree that is a cross between the eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and the European aspen (Populus tremula). It is a fast-growing tree that is often used for paper production and as a source of wood for construction and other industrial uses. It is also used for ornamental purposes in landscaping and for reforestation. Populus x euramericana is found in various regions of the world including in North America, Europe and Asia.


The Railway Poplar, scientifically known as Populus x euramericana, is a hybrid of the European and American black poplar trees. It is a popular and fast-growing tree species that is widely cultivated and used in landscaping, agriculture, and forestry.

The Railway Poplar is called so because it was extensively planted along railway tracks in the early 20th century, particularly in Europe. This was done for several reasons, including its ability to grow quickly, its tolerance of urban pollution, and its ability to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. Today, the tree is still commonly found along railway tracks, as well as in urban areas, parks, and gardens.

The Railway Poplar can grow up to 25 meters tall, with a crown that spreads up to 15 meters wide. It has a straight trunk with a smooth, grayish-white bark that develops furrows as the tree ages. The leaves of the Railway Poplar are large, glossy, and deep green, with a distinctive shape that is triangular with serrated edges. They turn bright yellow in the autumn before falling off.

One of the most notable features of the Railway Poplar is its ability to grow quickly. It is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 2 meters per year, making it a popular choice for reforestation projects and windbreaks. The tree is also resistant to many diseases and pests, making it a low-maintenance option for landowners and landscapers.

In addition to its practical uses, the Railway Poplar also has cultural significance in some parts of the world. In Chinese folklore, the poplar tree is said to be a symbol of peace, and is often depicted in paintings and poetry. In Western culture, poplar wood is commonly used to make musical instruments such as guitars and drums.

Despite its many benefits, the Railway Poplar has some drawbacks. It has a shallow root system, which can make it susceptible to wind damage in severe weather conditions. Additionally, the tree is known for its invasive tendencies, and can spread rapidly if not properly managed.

The Railway Poplar has several notable cultivars that are commonly used in landscaping and forestry. The most popular cultivar is 'Robusta,' which is known for its high vigor and tolerance to harsh growing conditions. Other notable cultivars include 'Serotina,' which has a striking golden-yellow autumn foliage, and 'Eugenei,' which is a smaller, more compact tree that is well-suited for urban areas.

The wood of the Railway Poplar is soft and lightweight, and is commonly used in the production of paper, plywood, and pallets. It is also used for fuelwood, and as a raw material in the production of various wood products such as furniture and flooring.

In terms of ecological benefits, the Railway Poplar is an important tree species for wildlife. It provides food and habitat for various bird species, including woodpeckers, owls, and nuthatches. It also supports a variety of insect species, which in turn support other wildlife such as bats and small mammals.

In terms of conservation, the Railway Poplar is not considered a threatened species, but it is important to manage its growth to prevent its invasive tendencies. Landowners and land managers should regularly monitor Railway Poplar populations and take steps to prevent them from spreading beyond their intended areas. This may involve regular pruning, cutting back or removing saplings, and planting alternative species in areas where the Railway Poplar is not well-suited.

The Railway Poplar also has a number of medicinal uses. Various parts of the tree, including the bark, leaves, and buds, have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The bark of the Railway Poplar contains salicin, which is a natural painkiller that is similar in chemical composition to aspirin. It has been used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and treat fevers. The buds of the Railway Poplar are also rich in flavonoids and other compounds that have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

In addition to its medicinal uses, the Railway Poplar has a number of other practical applications. The tree is commonly used in erosion control and land reclamation projects, as it has a strong root system that helps to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. It is also commonly used as a windbreak, as its dense canopy can help to reduce wind speeds and protect crops and other vegetation from wind damage.

In terms of its cultural significance, the Railway Poplar has been the subject of numerous works of art and literature over the years. In Chinese culture, the poplar is often associated with the famous poet Li Bai, who wrote a number of poems that featured the tree. In Western literature, the poplar has been the subject of numerous works of poetry, including William Wordsworth's "The Poplar Field" and Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Binsey Poplars."

Another interesting aspect of the Railway Poplar is its role in phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to remove pollutants from the soil, water, or air. The Railway Poplar is known for its ability to absorb and break down pollutants such as heavy metals and organic compounds, making it a valuable tool in environmental remediation projects. This is because the tree has a deep root system that can penetrate into the soil and access contaminants that may be out of reach of other plants. Additionally, the leaves of the tree have a large surface area, which allows them to absorb pollutants from the air.

The Railway Poplar also has a unique history that is closely tied to the development of modern transportation systems. As its name suggests, the tree was commonly planted along railway lines in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This was because the tree could grow quickly and provided a natural barrier between the railway tracks and surrounding land. The tree's strong root system also helped to stabilize embankments and prevent erosion.

Today, the Railway Poplar continues to be an important tree species in transportation infrastructure projects. It is often planted along highways, railways, and other transportation corridors to provide shade, reduce erosion, and absorb pollutants from the air and soil.

Overall, the Railway Poplar is a fascinating and versatile tree species that has numerous practical, ecological, and cultural uses. Its ability to adapt to harsh growing conditions, resist pests and diseases, and provide important environmental benefits make it a valuable species for forestry and conservation efforts. Its unique history and role in transportation infrastructure further enhance its value and make it a tree species that is truly worth studying and appreciating.