Populus balsamifera L.
balsam poplar (balsam poplar (ssp. balsamifera); black cottonwood (ssp. trichocarpa))
Salicaceae (Willow family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

Photograph

© Jim Riley     (Photo ID #32652)


Map

E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Populus balsamifera
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend

Species Information

General:
Dioecious tree up to 50 m tall; not colonial; branches brown the first year, turning grey later; twigs smooth or sparsely hairy.
Leaves:
Alternate, deciduous, simple, narrowly to broadly egg-shaped or lanceolate, 5-20 cm long, 3-12 cm wide, the bases tapered to heart-shaped or squared-off smooth, finely toothed and hairy on the margins, the teeth often tipped with a callous gland, lower side whitish or pale green and brownish; leaf stalks 2-10 cm long, often with a pair of glands near the blade; buds finely hairy with fringed scales.
Flowers:
Borne in catkins; male catkins 2-3 (5) cm long, soon deciduous, with 8-60 stamens; female catkins 8-20 cm long.
Fruits:
Capsules, broadly egg-shaped, carpels 2-3, smooth or hairy, nearly unstalked.
Notes:
Two subspecies occur in BC. The hybrids P. angustifolia James x P. balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa (P. x brayshawii Boivin) and P. balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa x P. nigra L. var. italica DuRoi are rare in BC .

1. Ovaries and capsules smooth; leaves pale green and brownish beneath.................... ssp. balsamifera

1. Ovaries and young capsules hairy; leaves whitish beneath.................... ssp. trichocarpa (T. & G.) Brayshaw

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Illustration

If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Yellow
Blooming Period:
Late Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Spring to Summer
Source:  The USDA

Ecology

Ecological Framework for Populus balsamifera

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class

Avg

Min

Max

Elevation (metres)
757 0 2131
Slope Gradient (%)
11 -2 205

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

207 0 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
4 0 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Class
D
# of field plots
 species was recorded in:
1540
Modal BEC Zone Class
BWBS

All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in

BAFA(1), BG(3), BWBS(567), CDF(32), CWH(94), ESSF(54), ICH(260), IDF(57), MS(20), PP(7), SBPS(6), SBS(270), SWB(48)

Habitat and Range

Moist uplands and floodplains in the montane zone; ssp. balsamifera - common in N and E BC; ssp. trichocarpa - common throughout BC except rare on Queen Charlotte Islands; ssp. balsamifera - N to YT, AK and NT, E to NF and S to NY, VA, IL, IA, CO, ID and OR; ssp. trichocarpa - N to S AK and YT, E to SW AB and S to ND, WY, UT, NV and CA.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia