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Trembling aspen

The trembling aspen is a commercial tree species that we find throughout temperate Quebec. It is in fact the only hardwood that one will find coast to coast on the American continent. The species is the most common one of all species in North America, including other species of poplar. The tree reaches an average height of 16 to 20 metres (52 to 55 ft.) but can go as high as 35 metres (114 ft.).

The leaves of poplars generally have long stalks that are flattened lengthways, thus allowing the wind to move them easily. This is a characteristic which is more especially noticeable in the trembling aspen, hence its descriptive name.

The species can adapt to a range of geographical conditions and has a high level of tolerance for impoverished soil. It will often re-colonize in areas that have been destroyed by fire, since it has a preference for open land and thrives less well in the shade.

This preference for open terrain provides a partial explanation of a strange and unique fact. The trembling aspen is one of the largest and oldest living organisms on the planet. It has been shown that several thousand trees covering an area of 80 hectares (approximately 200 acres) were in fact a single organism. The trees had multiplied by root suckering on open land, and shared the same genetic background.

The trembling aspen is also used by the wood products industry (pulp wood, plywood, matches…). However, well before it could be commercialized in this way, it was used by the First Nations as a dewormer, made up of a mixture of ground bark and sugar. The species is also of importance to wildlife in general. For example, it is one of the beaver’s favourite trees and is also part of the diet of the porcupine and of several cervidae.

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