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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):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

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


  • Dry sites,
  • Wet sites,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay 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

Seasons of Interest:

  • early winter,
  • midwinter,
  • 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.

Location of Populus tremuloides (Quaking aspen) at the Arboretum