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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  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun

Summary

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
   
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 flowers are 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 are 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.

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].
Medicinal Uses


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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].
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].
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.
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
Found In
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 :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Populus albaWhite Poplar12
Populus angustifoliaNarrowleaf Cottonwood12
Populus 'Balsam Spire'Tacatricho 3203
Populus ciliataHimalayan Poplar02
Populus deltoidesEastern Cottonwood, Plains cottonwood, Rio Grande cottonwood, Necklace Poplar22
Populus deltoides moniliferaPlains Cottonwood12
Populus deltoides wislizeniiRio Grande Cottonwood21
Populus euphratica 01
Populus fremontiiCottonwood, Fremont cottonwood, Fremont Poplar, Western Cottonwood12
Populus grandidentataCanadian Aspen, Bigtooth aspen11
Populus heterophyllaSwamp Cottonwood01
Populus maximowicziiDoronoki, Japanese poplar01
Populus nigraBlack Poplar, Lombardy poplar13
Populus pseudosimonii 11
Populus sieboldiiJapanese Aspen11
Populus simoniiSimon poplar, Chinese Poplar11
Populus tremulaAspen Poplar, European aspen, Aspen12
Populus tremuloidesAmerican Aspen - Poplar, Quaking aspen13
Populus trichocarpaWestern Balsam Poplar, Black cottonwood13
Populus x canadensisCanadian Poplar, Carolina Poplar01
Populus x canescensGrey Poplar01
Populus x jackiiBalm Of Gilead03
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Expert comment
 
Author
L.
Botanical References
1143200
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
 
Elizabeth H.
Mon May 19 2008
Standing deadwood of Populus balsamifera makes excellent wood for starting a fire by friction.
Elizabeth H.
Ed Purificacion Tue Apr 14 2009
Please let me know who is the nearest supplier in NOrthern California or in Redwood City.
Elizabeth H.
Bethie Someone Sat Sep 19 2009
Tree habitats have good description, tree descriptions are not so good.
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Subject : Populus balsamifera  

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