Trees of Wisconsin

Populus balsamifera L.
balsam poplar
Family: Salicaceae
tree leaf leaf undersurface bud cross-section of twig bark

The leaves of Populus balsamifera tend to be longer and more long-pointed than Populus tremuloides or P. deltoides and with much smaller teeth than Populus grandidentata. The petioles are approximately round in cross-section, unlike the conspicuously flattened petioles of our other naturally occurring species in this genus. The undersurface of leaves is often irregularly stained a rusty brown color (see above). The buds of Populus balsamifera are medium to dark brown, long pointed, and usually covered with a sticky "resinous" substance that is also the chief source of the Balsam-like odor of this species. When the buds are opening in the spring, the smell of Balsam fills the air for great distances from the trees. The bark of young trunks is similar to the pale greenish white color of other members of this genus.

Populus balsamifera does well in moist or wet soils, or in openings in upland forests or old fields and it does not tolerate heavy shade. It can spread vegetatively, the sprouts growing quickly and sometimes becoming very prominent locally. It is a northern species, ranging broadly across Canada, and extending south only to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and New England. In Wisconsin it is most common in the north and east.

known Wisconsin distribution


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