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Quaking aspen tree

Eastern Washington

Picture of a Quaking Aspen Grove
Grove of quaking aspen or Populus tremuloides

Quaking aspen or Populus tremuloides grows in groves at the arid forest edge around and in the Columbia Basin, including the east slope of the Cascade Mountains, along Lake Roosevelt, and in Grant County's cool Northrup Canyon. It's found growing near streams and rivers, in meadows and in canyon rocks, in places that may seem dry on the surface but really are wet underground.

Quaking aspen is a beautiful poplar tree that makes Colorado famous. It has pale green or creamy white bark, bright green leaves above and silvery below, each leaf flipping in a different direction, making the tree or grove seem to shimmer and murmur in the breeze. In autumn, aspen leaves turn yellow, gold and red, and in the clear sunlit places it favors, its colors blaze in brilliant revelry.

Quaking aspen provide browse for elk, which eat their leaves and shoots, for beaver, which eat huge amounts of bark and use its wood for dams, and for ruffed grouse, which rely on its flower buds as a staple food source during winter time. Other birds seen browsing the aspens might include yellow warblers, white-breasted nuthatches, mountain chickadees, and red-naped sapsuckers. Its leaves also feed the caterpillars of mourning cloak and western tiger swallowtail butterflies.

These trees spread from long-lived roots which search out water, sprout new suckers and live long after individual clone trees die. They thrive on moist, disturbed ground where there's little shade, and do quite well where fires burn competing conifers. For planting, they're best put away from water and waste pipes, which their roots can penetrate and clog.

Picture of aspen trunk and leaves
Quaking aspen along a spring creek

Quaking aspen stand after a fire, Umtanum Canyon
Yellow quaking aspen in fall
Lake Roosevelt

Quaking aspen stand after a fire, Umtanum Canyon
Quaking aspen killed by fire
and re-sprouting along Umtanum Creek

Quaking aspen grove
Grove of quaking aspen
in the tangle along Northrup Canyon Trail

Picture of quaking aspen -  Populus tremuloides
Quaking aspen tree - Populus tremuloides