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Black poplar (Populus nigra)

Diputación de Málaga

Black poplar (Populus nigra)

IDENTIFICATION

It is a deciduous tree (losing its leaves in autumn) with an erect and cylindrical trunk, and a great bearing (up to 30m high). The canopy is ovoid, wide and irregular. The trunk is usually straight but it can bend with time. The bark is greyish and smooth when it is young, but it cracks lengthwise and turns brown and wrinkled with age. The leaves are simple, lacks fur and they are scattered on the stems, giving the glass a slightly dense appearance. The leaf blade is green on both faces in a triangular shape. They are very wide on the base and ends in a tip. The flowers are grouped in hanging lateral inflorescences (aments). The fruits are  green-coloured capsules and they also grouped forming branches.

WHERE DOES IT LIVE?

The black poplar is a fast growing tree which usually does not live more than 100 years. It is a riverbank species (associated to river streams) which needs wet and little compact soils.  In dryer soils, it does not grow much. It bears seasonally flooding grounds. It can not stand shade and prefers the sun. It resists low temperatures and is indifferent to the type of soil, so it can develop on alkaline or acid substrates.

HOW DOES IT LIVE?

It is a dioecious species (there are male and female trees). The flowering occurs from February to March, before the leaves sprout. The pollination is helped by the wind. The fruits are formed between April and May. When they mature, they release some tiny seeds (about 2 mm sized) which present large cottony fur helping them to keep suspended in the air and to be transported very far by the wind. It can commonly be confused with pollen.

WHERE CAN WE SEE IT IN MÁLAGA?

It is a common species in the province; practically associated to all the Malaga water courses, although it is more abundant in those existing in well structured riverbank forests. In the Great Path, great representations of this species can be seen in the Northern area of this province and in the Ronda mountain ranges, in stages 14 to 19 and 23 to 26.

CURIOUS FACTS

Because of its fast growth, its soft and light wood, it has always been considered useful for the fabrication of paper pulp, planks and light packaging. That is the reason why it is a tree with industrial use and that it is considered as a forest crop in some areas. Its wood is also used in imagery. The so-called "populous ointment" is made from its yolks, which relieves and reduces haemorrhoids. The bark is also used to tan and tint of green or yellow colour. It is very appreciated in mycology and is already associated with the production of the famous poplar mushroom.

SIMILAR SPECIES

It can be confused with the white poplar from which it differs by the leaf's underside.  In the black poplar, it is shiny green whereas in the white poplar it is whitish or silvered. In autumn, the black poplar turns yellow when the leaves fall, whereas the white poplar does not. 

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