Quaking Aspen

Riding Through a Grove of Aspens

The sweeping of our horses’ manes
Showed us the wind and which way it blew,
But it was the aspens that gave it voice.

Swirling leaves,
Like erratic wings of butterflies,
shimmered, shook, slapped,
Simultaneously clapping as we passed.

Grace in the grove, the ticking,
whispering clatter of the breeze
Passing back and forth between worlds,
Spirit and sound merged together.

We didn’t question deserving,
Or consecration,
Or forgiveness.
Rather, we listened,
wide-open and happy.

And finally, as if beckoned,
The cry of crow and its echoes,
Defiant, yes, and provocative
The rasping call to the universe
The caw-caw of survival,
As we rode, quiet, through.

Linda Reznicek, June 23 2011

From the site of The East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD)

Do not plant near underground sewer or water pipes.

Populus tremuloides, the Quaking Aspen or Trembling Aspen, is a deciduous tree native to cooler areas of North America, with the northern limit determined by its intolerance of permafrost. In the United States, it occurs at low elevations as far south as northern Nebraska and central Indiana. 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.

(Emily Dickinson’s Garden says, Spokane’s elevation is a little over 1,800 feet and higher here North/West of Spokane. In fact, our garden is at 2370 feet and the aspen are thriving. It has also been a very cold group of winters/springs for the last four years since we planted. Aspens seem to thrive in cold, windy conditions.)

The name references the quaking or trembling of the leaves that occurs in even a slight breeze due to the flattened petioles. Other species of Populus have petioles flattened partially along their length, while the Quaking Aspen’s are flattened from side to side along the entire length of the petiole. This quaking of the leaves produces a soft sound that many consider a hallmark of the Quaking Aspen.

(EDG says, we have planted three. One has three trunks and the other are singles. We do love to listen to the sound of them clattering in the wind.)

It is a tall tree, usually 20 to 25 meters (66 to 82 feet) at maturity, with a trunk 20-80 cm diameter; records are 36.5 m height and 1.37 m diameter. The leaves on mature trees are nearly round, 4-8 cm diameter with small rounded teeth, and a 3-7 cm long, flattened petiole. Young trees (including root sprouts) have much larger (10-20 cm long), nearly triangular leaves.

It propagates itself by both seed and root sprouts, and extensive clonal colonies are common. Each colony is its own clone, and all trees in the clone have identical characteristics and share a root structure. A clone may turn color earlier or later in the fall than its neighbouring aspen clones. Fall colors are usually bright tones of yellow; in some areas, red blushes may be occasionally seen. As all trees in a given clonal colony are considered part of the same organism, one clonal colony, named Pando, is considered the heaviest and oldest living organism at six million kilograms and approximately 80,000 years old.

(EDG says, that is AWESOME. Would love to see an 80,000 years old organism, wouldn’t you? Thanks for the information, please follow the link above if you’d like to read more.)

2 responses to “Quaking Aspen

  1. I love the idea of the aspens giving the wind voice. It’s almost musical. Nature finds a way to reach us always, doesn’t she?

  2. emilydickinsonsgarden

    Joanne–Do you have the Quaking Aspens where you live? They are native here and often line the trails, along with the pines, as we ride. We planted three lovely Aspens for our enjoyment here at home and find they are one of the only trees that thrive. The voles leave them alone and they seem to flourish with the cold, unpredictable springs and falls that kill less hearty trees…like my poor Magnolias. We’ve come to love their voices–this ticking kind of whispering chatter. And since it’s often windy here, as well, they talk a lot for us.

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