Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Populus balsamifera L.
- Family: Willow (Salicaceae)
- Flowering: March-April
- Field Marks: The distinguishing features of this poplar are the terete leaf stalks and the
leaves that are metallic and shiny on the lower surface and scented with balsam. The lower
leaf surface is smooth, or with hairs only on the veins.
- Habitat: Riverbanks.
- Habit: Tree to 90 feet tall, with a trunk diameter up to 6 feet; upper part of trunk smooth, lower part fissured and ridged.
- Twigs: Shiny, gray to light brown, smooth at maturity; buds ovoid, yellow, gummy with resinous balsam; bundle traces 3.
- Leaves: Alternate, simple, broadly lanceolate to ovate, pointed at the tip, tapering, rounded, or sometimes heart-shaped at the base, toothed, smooth on the upper surface, smooth or hairy only on the veins on the lower surface, the lower surface metallic and shiny, up to 5 inches long; leaf stalks terete.
- Flowers: Male and female crowded into separate drooping spikes on different trees, the spikes appearing before the leaves unfold; flowers subtended by fringed bracts.
- Sepals: 0.
- Petals: 0.
- Stamens: Up to 60, hairy, borne on a disk.
- Pistils: Solitary, attached to a disk, smooth.
- Fruits: Capsules ovoid, up to 1/4 inch long; seeds numerous, hairy.
- Notes: The resin balsam is obtained from this plant.
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