I promised you a little winter tree ID. Well, clumps of these young trees grow along our trails in abundance, particularly in fairly open areas. Know what they are?
Okay, I kind of gave it away with the title of the post – these are young quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides. Even when they’re this young, their smooth, pale bark and tendency to grow in clusters (the form “clonal colonies,” with many trunks growing from the same set of roots) give them away. They’re an early-successional species, meaning they’re one of the first trees to grow back in an area that’s been disturbed. Another thing to look for is pointy reddish buds. On the trees here, many of the buds have swollen, almost bubbly-looking areas at their bases.
These are galls, caused by a fly called the poplar twiggall fly laying its eggs at the bases of the buds. They’re generally not harmful to the tree.
Do you have aspens where you are? In the fall their leaves turn a beautiful golden color, and as far as I’m concerned they’re one of the most beautiful trees in the North Woods.