TREES & plants

Quaking aspen

Quaking aspen has a silvery-gray bark.

This fast-growing native tree has beautiful silvery gray bark and leaves that "tremble" in the wind due to flat leaf stalks. Unfortunately this tree is short-lived and prone to some disease and insect problems; it is also highly susceptible to ice storm damage.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name: 
Populus tremuloides
All Common Names: 
quaking aspen
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Screen, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
40-50 feet
Mature Width: 
20-30 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 2, 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil, 
  • Wet soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Excessive sucker growth, 
  • Highly susceptible to ice damage
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid winter, 
  • Late winter, 
  • Early fall, 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Narrow, 
  • Oval, 
  • Pyramidal, 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate, 
  • Fast
Transplants Well: 
  • No
  • Browsers, 
  • Game birds, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Best planted in moist soils in full sun. Intolerant of shade conditions.
Roots tend to sucker freely.
Does not tolerate summer heat or pollution.

Disease, pests, and problems

Numerous disease and pest problems if not sited correctly, Tree prefers cool summer climates.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 4
Native to northern portion of North America

Bark color and texture 

Young trees have a grayish-white, smooth bark.
Stems are a slender, reddish brown.
On older trees bark is grayish white, furrowed, with darker areas.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate leaf arrangement, simple, 1 to 3 inches wide, oval to nearly round, with finely serrated margins.
Light green, smooth leaf turns a bright yellow in the fall.
Flattened leaf petioles allow the leaves to tremble in the wind creating a rustling sound.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Dioecious. Male and female trees separate. Flowers are dangling catkins that appear before the leaves.
Not ornamentally important. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Fruit is a  drooping cluster of capsules containing many seeds. 

Cultivars and their differences

Prairie Gold® Quaking Aspen  (Populus tremuloides 'NE Arb'):  This cultivar is more tolerant of the heat, drought and humidity found in the Midwest; golden yellow fall color.

Populus tremuloides or Quaking aspen