Content Detail

Quaking aspen is a fast-growing native tree that has beautiful silvery gray bark and leaves that “tremble” in the wind due to flat leaf stalks. Unfortunately, this tree is short-lived and prone to some disease and insect problems. It is also highly susceptible to ice storm damage. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Willow
  • Family (botanic) Salicaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-50 feet
  • Mature width 20-30 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Narrow, Oval, Pyramidal, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast, Moderate
  • Transplants well No
  • Planting considerations Excessive sucker growth, Highly susceptible to ice damage
  • Wildlife Browsers, Game birds, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Native to the northern portion of North America. C-Value: 4.  

Bark color and texture:

Young trees have a grayish-white, smooth bark. Stems are a slender, reddish brown. On older trees bark is grayish white, furrowed, with darker areas.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Alternate leaf arrangement, with simple  leaves that are 1 to 3 inches wide, oval to nearly round, and have finely serrated margins. Leaves are light green, turning a bright yellow in the fall. Flattened leaf petioles allow the leaves to tremble in the wind, creating a rustling sound.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

The tree is dioecious (male and female trees separate). Flowers are dangling catkins that appear before the leaves and are not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruit is a drooping cluster of capsules containing many seeds.

Plant care:

Quaking aspen is best planted in moist soils and full sun. It is intolerant of shade conditions. The roots tend to sucker freely. This tree does not tolerate summer heat or pollution.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Numerous disease and pest problems if not sited correctly. This tree prefers cool summer climates.

Prairie Gold® quaking aspen  (Populus tremuloides ‘NE Arb’)

This cultivar is more tolerant of the heat, drought, and humidity found in the Midwest. It has a golden yellow fall color.


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