Content Detail

Black poplar is extremely susceptible to Cytospora canker (caused by the fungal pathogen Cytospora chrysosperma). This disease is often fatal, especially to the Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra ‘Italica’) which was commonly sold at one time. Black poplar is not recommended for planting anywhere in the Midwest. This species is native to Europe and Asia, but was introduced into American landscapes and was widely used for many decades, especially the upright cultivar ‘Italica’. It is no longer recommended because of its susceptibility to canker.

To find suitable replacements for this tree, go to The Morton Arboretum’s tree and plant finder. Before purchasing or planting, be sure to check for any local or state guidelines, and ensure that it is suitable for its habitat by reviewing planting considerations or by finding it in the USDA Plants Database.

  • Family (English) Willow
  • Family (botanic) Salicaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 70-90 feet
  • Mature width 70-90 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Upright
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Weak wood and branch structure
  • Wildlife Cavity-nesting birds, Game birds, Large mammals, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

More Information

Size and Method of Spreading

Black poplar is a larger tree, growing 70 to 90 feet tall and 30 to 50 feet wide.

Native Geographic Location and Habitat

Black poplar is native to Europe and northern Africa.

Bark Color and Texture

The gray bark is roughly ridged and furrowed.

Leaf Description

The simple, alternate leaves are nearly triangular in outline. The leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and wide. Leaf color is medium green, changing to yellow in fall.

Flower Description

Male and female flowers are on separate trees (dioecious). They are not ornamentally important.

Fruit Description

Fruit occurs on female trees only and are small capsules in hanging clusters. The capsules open to release numerous seeds with fluff attached to them.

Care Knowledge

Plant Care

Black poplar is best grown in moist sites, but the tree is able to tolerate some dryness. It has aggressive roots that can cause damage to drainage systems.

Pests, Diseases, and Tolerances

The usefulness of this tree is limited by a serious canker disease.


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