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Black Poplar

Populus nigra

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Salicaceae (Willow)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 metres tall
Floodplains, gardens, parks, riverbanks, waterside, wetland, woodland.

Red, no petals
Male and female catkins appear on separate trees. Males are red and females green. Wind pollinated.
The female flowers develop into the fruit. The fruit are capsules contain cottony seeds. The capsules burst open, leaving the seeds to fall to the ground in late summer. The fluffy seeds are sometimes referred to as 'poplar snow'.
A deciduous tree. Long-stalked and heart-shaped leaves tapering to a point, up to 12cm long. The edges of the leaves are finely serrated. Not hairy. The glossy leaves turn yellow in autumn.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Populus nigra, also known as the black poplar, is a species of deciduous tree that is native to Europe and Western Asia. It can grow up to 30 meters tall and has a wide, spreading crown. The leaves are triangular and dark green in color. The bark is dark in color and deeply furrowed, giving it a rough texture. 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.


Black poplar (Populus nigra) is a deciduous tree species native to Europe, western Asia, and northwest Africa. It is also commonly known as Lombardy poplar or black cottonwood. The tree has a tall, narrow shape and can reach heights of up to 100 feet. Black poplars are often grown for their timber, as well as for their ornamental value in parks and gardens.

Black poplar is a fast-growing tree that is adaptable to a variety of soils and growing conditions. It prefers moist, well-drained soils but can tolerate occasional flooding. The tree is also drought-tolerant, making it a popular choice for reforestation projects in arid regions.

The leaves of the black poplar are diamond-shaped and have a light green color. They are arranged alternately on the stem and have a wavy margin. The male and female flowers of the tree are produced on separate trees and appear in the spring before the leaves. The male flowers are reddish-brown and hang in catkins, while the female flowers are green and appear in clusters.

Black poplar is an important habitat for a variety of wildlife species. The tree provides shelter and nesting sites for birds, such as owls and woodpeckers. It also supports a diverse range of insects, including moths and butterflies, which feed on its leaves and flowers. The bark of the black poplar is a source of food for beavers and other small mammals.

The black poplar has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The bark and leaves of the tree were used to treat a range of ailments, including fever, rheumatism, and diarrhea. The resin of the tree was also used as a natural adhesive.

Black poplar is also an important timber species, and its wood is used in a variety of applications, including furniture, flooring, and plywood. The tree's lightweight and strong wood make it a popular choice for making musical instruments such as guitars, drums, and violins.

Despite its many benefits, the black poplar is facing several threats. The tree is susceptible to a range of diseases, including canker and root rot, which can weaken or kill the tree. In addition, the tree is also threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation due to urbanization and agricultural activities.

Efforts are underway to conserve and protect black poplar populations. Conservation programs aim to increase awareness of the ecological and cultural importance of the tree, as well as to promote its sustainable use in various industries. Tree planting and restoration projects are also being carried out to increase the tree's range and population.

Black poplar is an important part of European folklore and mythology. In ancient Rome, the tree was associated with the god Jupiter, and its wood was believed to have protective properties. In medieval Europe, the tree was used as a symbol of mourning and was often planted in churchyards. The Lombardy poplar variety was particularly popular in Renaissance gardens and became a symbol of the Italian landscape.

The black poplar has also been used in environmental remediation projects to clean up polluted soil and water. The tree is capable of absorbing heavy metals and other pollutants from the soil and storing them in its tissues. This makes it a useful species for phytoremediation, a process that uses plants to clean up contaminated sites.

In addition to its ecological and cultural benefits, black poplar is also a valuable source of biomass for energy production. The tree's fast growth rate and ability to thrive in a variety of conditions make it a suitable species for use in bioenergy production. The wood chips and pellets produced from black poplar can be used to generate heat and electricity, reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Black poplar is an important tree species for biodiversity conservation, as it provides habitat for a range of wildlife species. In addition to birds and insects, the tree is also home to bats, which roost in its hollow trunks and branches. Bats are important pollinators and insect predators, and their presence can help to maintain ecosystem balance.

The black poplar is also an important component of riparian ecosystems, where it helps to stabilize riverbanks and prevent erosion. Its deep root system helps to bind soil and prevent sediment runoff, which can reduce water quality and damage aquatic habitats.

In recent years, the black poplar has become the focus of a range of research projects investigating its genetic diversity and ecological role. These studies aim to improve our understanding of the tree's biology and ecology, as well as to identify strategies for its conservation and management.

The black poplar is also a popular ornamental tree, often planted in urban areas for its aesthetic value. Its tall, slender shape and attractive foliage make it a popular choice for parks, gardens, and landscaping projects. The Lombardy poplar variety, with its distinctive columnar shape and bright yellow leaves, is particularly popular for decorative purposes.

The black poplar has played an important role in traditional medicine and has been used to treat a range of ailments for centuries. The bark and leaves of the tree contain compounds with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which can help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. The resin of the tree has also been used to treat wounds and skin infections.

The black poplar is a dioecious species, meaning that male and female flowers are produced on separate trees. This makes it an important species for the study of plant reproduction and genetics. Researchers are using molecular techniques to better understand the mechanisms of sex determination in the black poplar, which could have important implications for plant breeding and agriculture.

In recent years, the black poplar has become an important symbol of environmental activism and conservation. In the UK, for example, the Black Poplar Conservation Project aims to protect and conserve the country's remaining black poplar populations. The project involves planting new trees, protecting existing ones, and raising awareness of the tree's cultural and ecological value.

Overall, the black poplar is a fascinating and important tree species with a rich history and a range of ecological, cultural, and economic benefits. Its versatility and adaptability make it a valuable resource for a range of industries and applications, while its role in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services make it a crucial player in environmental conservation.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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