Poplar: Meaning & Usage

Often overlooked, poplar is widely used in France.


Poplar (Populus) is an ornamental tree with a characteristic silhouette. This tree is found almost everywhere, in its natural or planted state, with a presence throughout Europe, ranging from the Atlantic coast to Western Russia. It is found along the banks of rivers and in wetlands.

Why plant poplars?

Poplar is a fast-growing tree, which makes it an interesting subject for forestry, especially as it tolerates humidity well. Moreover, the poplar can play a role similar to that of the willow in soil decontamination, as it evaporates a large quantity of water vapour. It thus acts as a filter between the water table and the water vapour it releases into the air. In this way it can accumulate certain toxic products which it is partly able to eliminate. For example, it is able to absorb and degrade trichloroethylene (TCE), which is a common groundwater pollutant in industrial and urban areas.

Poplar - Overview

Poplar - Overview

The poplar (Populus), which belongs to the same family as the willows, those of the Salicaceae, is widespread in France and in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. It has a characteristic pyramidal shape and carries branches from the base. Its very long and straight trunk is grey-white in colour and its smooth or rough grey bark is marked with streaks. Its roots are very developed on the surface which can deform the ground around them. Its deciduous foliage is very refined with its finely serrated spike-shaped leaves. Very light green on the edges, and dark green at the centre, the colour of the leaves is quite magnificent and take on a beautiful golden hue in autumn. The flowers are grouped into male catkins with reddish stamens and more rigid females. The fruits in capsule are surrounded by a fine cottony down which can be very allergenic.
It is a fast growing tree. It can live for 400 years and reach up to 40 meters in height.

Poplar - Species requirements

A high exposure to sunlight suits it well. All poplars appreciate rich and wet soils. White poplar thrives well in flooded or dry areas and can grow even in poor quality and calcareous soils. Grey poplar tolerates fairly dry soils and spray. All poplar trees cope well with air pollution.
The planting method is very different from that usually chosen for other species such as oak or Douglas fir; these are planted with a shovel or a pickaxe with small rooted plants. Poplar is planted by using existing branches (3-4 meters of length) from another poplar tree. Furthermore, it is planted in autumn, when the plant is at rest, as opposed to in the spring, where the planting is more difficult because the plant requires water.

The poplar wood

Poplar wood is a versatile material, which makes it possible to be used for very different purposes. Poplar is a softwood and easy to shape. The wood is a low rated wood of a mat or satin shade that is useful for interior uses. It, however, has a excellent quality of mechanical resistance. With the technological advancements, new valorization and usage opportunities appear alongside with the more traditional usages of the wood material.

The symbol of the poplar

The poplar is often referred to as the "tree of the people" from its Latin name Populus, as it was under poplar trees that important decisions where made. According to European tradition, this tree is the connection to "the Other World", to the cyclical life of souls, it is the tree of melancholy and the memory of the dead... Moreover, for the druids, the poplar tree symbolized the old age of man due to its white leaves. But the poplar is likewise associated with hope and the promise of revival. It is therefore the ideal retirement gift or for someone who is about to begin a new chapter in his/her life.
Give a poplar as a gift! It is an original gift. Give a tree!