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Populus balsamifera - L.

Common Name Balsam Poplar, Black cottonwood
Family Salicaceae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Deep moist sandy soils of river bottomlands, stream banks, borders of lakes and swamps[229].
Range Northern N. America - Newfoundland to Alaska, south to New England, Iowa and Colorado.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Populus balsamifera Balsam Poplar, Black cottonwood


USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora
Populus balsamifera Balsam Poplar, Black cottonwood
Lynden Gerdes @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Populus balsamifera is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 2. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

P. tacamahacca

Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Inner bark
Edible Uses:

Inner bark[161, 177, 257]. It is best used in spring[172]. Mucilaginous[257]. There are no more details but inner bark is often dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereals when making bread. Catkins - raw or cooked. A bitter flavour[172].

References

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anodyne  Antiinflammatory  Antiscorbutic  Antiseptic  Cathartic  Diuretic  Expectorant  Febrifuge  
Stimulant  Tonic

Balsam poplar has a long history of medicinal use. It was valued by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints, but especially to treat skin problems and lung ailments[257]. In modern herbalism it is valued as an expectorant and antiseptic tonic. The leaf buds are antiscorbutic, antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, tonic[4, 46, 61, 165, 172]. The leaf buds are covered with a resinous sap that has a strong turpentine odour and a bitter taste[213].They are boiled in order to separate the resin and the resin is then dissolved in alcohol[222]. The resin is a folk remedy, used as a salve and wash for sores, rheumatism, wounds etc[222, 257]. It is made into a tea and used as a wash for sprains, inflammation, muscle pains etc[222]. Internally, the tea is used in the treatment of lung ailments and coughs[222]. The buds can also be put in hot water and used as an inhalant to relieve congested nasal passages[213]. The bark is cathartic and tonic[4]. Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the bark of most, if not all members of the genus contain salicin, a glycoside that probably decomposes into salicylic acid (aspirin) in the body[213, 238]. The bark is therefore anodyne, anti-inflammatory and febrifuge. It is used especially in treating rheumatism and fevers, and also to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps[238]. A tea made from the inner bark is used as an eye wash and in the treatment of scurvy[222].

References

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Other Uses

Pioneer  Repellent  Resin  Rooting hormone  Wood

An extract of the shoots can be used as a rooting hormone for all types of cuttings. It is extracted by soaking the chopped up shoots in cold water for a day[172]. The resin obtained from the buds was used by various native North American Indian tribes to waterproof the seams on their canoes[226]. The resin on the buds has been used as an insect repellent[257]. The bark has been burnt to repel mosquitoes[257]. A pioneer species, capable of invading cleared land and paving the way for other woodland trees[229]. It is not very shade tolerant and so it is eventually out-competed by the woodland trees. Wood - soft, light, rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, very resistant to abrasion[11, 46, 61, 171]. It weighs 23lb per cubic foot[235], and is used for pulp, boxes etc[11, 46, 61, 171]. The wood is also used as a fuel, it gives off a pleasant odour when burning[226].

Special Uses

Scented Plants

References

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it does well in a heavy cold damp soil[1], though it prefers a deep rich well-drained circumneutral soil, growing best in the south and east of Britain[11, 200]. Growth is much less on wet soils, on poor acid soils and on thin dry soils[11]. Does not do well in exposed upland sites[11]. Dislikes shade, it is intolerant of root or branch competition[200]. A fast-growing and generally short-lived tree, though specimens 150 - 200 years old have occasionally been recorded[229. This is a pioneer species, invading cleared land, old fields etc, but unable to tolerate shade competition and eventually being out-competed by other trees[229]. It is not fully satisfactory in Britain[11]. In spring and early summer the buds and young leaves have a strong fragrance of balsam[188, 245]. Poplars have very extensive and aggressive root systems that can invade and damage drainage systems. Especially when grown on clay soils, they should not be planted within 12 metres of buildings since the root system can damage the building's foundations by drying out the soil[11]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[200]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

References

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Propagation

Seed - must be sown as soon as it is ripe in spring[113]. Poplar seed has an extremely short period of viability and needs to be sown within a few days of ripening[200]. Surface sow or just lightly cover the seed in trays in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the old frame. If sufficient growth is made, it might be possible to plant them out in late summer into their permanent positions, otherwise keep them in the cold frame until the following late spring and then plant them out. Most poplar species hybridize freely with each other, so the seed may not come true unless it is collected from the wild in areas with no other poplar species growing[11]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, 20 - 40cm long, November/December in a sheltered outdoor bed or direct into their permanent positions. Very easy. Suckers in early spring[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.

 

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Botanical References

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Readers comment

   Mon May 19 2008

Standing deadwood of Populus balsamifera makes excellent wood for starting a fire by friction.

Ed Purificacion   Tue Apr 14 2009

Please let me know who is the nearest supplier in NOrthern California or in Redwood City.

Bethie Someone   Sat Sep 19 2009

Tree habitats have good description, tree descriptions are not so good.

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