This deciduous beauty, with circular leaves and green-white bark, is common and widely distributed throughout Canada and elsewhere in the world. We pass by her almost daily without a second glance. But do you know anything about this cheerful and enduring tree?
Here are 6 facts about trembling aspen that will help acquaint to the two of you:
1. Leaves that tremble
Notice the characteristic trembling of leaves in the slightest breeze. The flattened leaf stalks allow them to dance and wave to you in the wind. When you see the shimmering sunlight penetrating through her leaves, you can’t help but feel uplifted.
2. Appearances can be deceiving
To us, the aspen tree appears as an individual, living independently of others around her. But nothing could be further from the truth. Deep down, they live as one. Aspen stands, or “clones”, are connected by underground root systems – making them a single organism. A parent tree sends out shoots underground and suckers, the “babies”, pop up in just the right places to begin a new life.
3. Aspen is a scrappy fighter
These trees are adaptable and resilient. As humans, who wouldn’t want to possess these traits in the face of adversity? Go sit under the shade of an aspen and draw from her strength and flexibility. Aspens are considered undesirable by some because if you try to cut one down, more will grow in its place. The parent tree is sending out more suckers, as she knows the strength of community will ensure survival.
4. Aspen gives freely to us
Traditionally, aspen has been used medicinally and for other practical uses. The buds, inner bark and leaves can be made into medicine. Chewed up leaves are effective at calming redness and irritation caused by bug bites. Wood can be used for canoe paddles, tree knots can be made into bowls, and aspen poles may be used for tipi frames.
5. Aspen gives to other creatures, too
Beaver (another symbol of resilience) and aspen are a perfect reciprocal match. With the quickly spreading growth habit of the aspen, the beaver has a steady source of food and a resource for building dams. The act of chewing down aspen then allows the tree to produce more suckers, which is a win-win for both beaver and aspen.
6. Aspens are one of the largest and oldest organisms on Earth
Take Pando (Latin for “I spread”), as an example. Pando is a trembling aspen clone in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest and is the largest single living organism on Earth. This prehistoric stand has over 40,000 individual trees and is estimated to be 80,000 years old. Talk about resilience and perseverance!
Next time you’re out for a walk at home (or on the Pemiska trails!), take a moment to become familiar with the details of aspen’s trunk, buds, leaves, and branches. Soak in the wisdom of this beautiful tree now that you know her a little better.