The Aspen tree is also known as trembling or quaking aspen. All of its names refer to how the leaves will quiver in the slightest breeze. It is one of the most widely distributed trees in Canada and the USA. It ranges from Alaska to Newfoundland and Labrador, southeast to Virginia. It is very common in the interior of BC but is spotty on the west coast, it can be found on southeastern Vancouver Island as far up as Campbell River, there is a large clone population growing just on the outskirts of town.
It is a fast-growing tree and can reach up to 20 meters in height. It is a fairly short-lived tree though and usually only lives for around 50 years, it grows in wet forest openings and meadows It often forms clonal stands. Although the individual trees will only have a short life, the clone stands can be up to 5000 years old. It has an underground root system that will shoot up suckers that grow into the trees. Sometimes you will see huge forests of Aspen made up of many clonal stands and in the fall, you can see these individual stands as they take turns turning various fall colors, this is quite fascinating to observe.
The leaves have flattened leaf stalks, and it is this feature that makes the leaves tremble, even in a breeze so light that you cannot feel it. It’s pretty awesome to listen to this.
These trees are very beautiful and people like to plant them as landscape trees, but beware, the suckers will spread and trees will pop up in various places, including neighbors’ yards. The suckers can be hard on sewer systems and foundations as well. I would suggest that you enjoy them in the forest and just leave them there.
Deer and elk use the aspen trees as an important browsing plant. Rabbits, rodents, and beavers all eat the bark and other parts of aspen trees. They often can girdle and kill small trees. Quaking Aspen also provides important feeding and nesting sites for many birds. It is host to several insect species that are food for woodpeckers.