Trembling Aspen Identification and uses

Trembling Aspens thrive in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Today, Trembling Aspens are a principal source of pulp and paper products. In the past, Native peoples of North America used Trembling Aspens both for nourishment and medicinal purposes.

(Please note that this article is intended to provide information on the North American Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides, not to be confused with the Eurasian counterpart, Populus tremula)

“Native to cooler areas of North America, with the northern limit determined by its intolerance of permafrost. It occurs across Canada in all provinces and territories (with the possible exception of Nunavut). In the United States, it occurs at low elevations as far south as northern Nebraska and central Indiana. Farther west, it grows at high altitudes as far south as Guanajuato, Mexico. In the western United States, this tree rarely survives at elevations lower than 1,500 feet due to the mild winters experienced below that elevation, and is generally found at 5,000-12,000 feet.” (source: Wikipedia Commons)

Slender deciduous tree with smooth, greenish-white bark marked with blacked bumps and lines. Usually growing to 20 to 25 meters (66 to 82 feet) at maturity, with a trunk at a 20-80 cm diameter. See image below.

Food Uses:
Hollows were sometimes made into the trunk to collect sap, which is particularly plentiful in trembling aspen trees during spring. The pulpy inner bark, cambium, was special sweet treat for some tribes. The young catkins were also eaten by some, and are high in vitamin C.

Medicinal uses:
Bark tea was considered effective in the treatment of skin problems, intermittent fevers, urinary tract infections, jaundice and diarrhoea. The bark tea was also used to kill parasitic worms. The leaves and inner bark of Trembling Aspen contain salycin, a compound similar to salicylic acid, and is therefore used like aspirin. It was the original source of aspirin before the compounds was synthetically synthesized.

Other Uses:
Trembling aspen wood is useful because it does not splinter, and is therefore used today for playground equipment and chopsticks. Trembling aspen pulp is also widely used to make paper.

Some sources report that the bark tea is slightly toxic. The bud resin may irritate sensitive skin. Trembling Aspen resin can cause skin irritations and reactions in some people. Pregnant women and people with kidney disorder should not take Trembling Aspen tea. Remember that this article is no way is intended to offer medical advice; it is merely an interesting resource for those who would like to become more familiar with some useful plants.