Habitat: Moist, low lying areas
Height: Up to 30 m
Description: Of our three poplars, the balsam poplar can be identified by its large, egg-shaped leaves which gradually taper to a sharp tip. The leaves are 7-13 cm (2.75-5 in) long with a finely toothed margin. The upper surface is a very shiny dark green while the lower surface is white-green, often with brown resin spots. The greenish bark of the young tree usually becomes grayish-brown and furrowed with age.
Similar Species: The trembling aspen and the black cottonwood are similar, but the leaves make each tree easy to distinguish. The leaves of the trembling aspen are almost round, with a long petiole. They are 2-8 cm (0.75-3 in) long.
Balsam poplar can be distinguished from black cottonwood by the leaves. The leaves of the balsam poplar have long tapering tips, and are longer than they are wide. The leaves of the cottonwood are almost as wide as they are long, with a rapid taper towards the tip.
Black cottonwood is now viewed as just another variety or subspecies of balsam poplar, rather than as a distinct species.
Range: Balsam poplar is a very wide ranging species, and can be found across most of Canada ranging from Alaska and the Yukon all the way south to Colorado.
Notes: The inner bark of the balsam poplar was eaten by many North American native tribes, especially in spring when the sap was running. The new buds are very sticky and aromatic, giving the tree its name. These buds, when mixed with blood, made a permanent black dye that could be used to paint images on robes.
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