White poplar is a non-native tree of the UK but is now a naturalised species. It copes well in damp and moist soils so is often seen by watersides. They can also tolerate salty winds so will happily survive by the coast. A good example of this is Exmouth train station - there are several White poplar trees by the tracks. The name White poplar is true to it's name - most parts of the tree are white!
White poplars are not suitable as street or park trees due to the invasive roots as well as the growing habits tending to be a bit 'wonky'. They are also fast growing but fairly short lived - usually around 50 years in urban areas. For these reasons - they are not widely planted in Exeter. Although they can spread via see they tend to send out lots of suckers and colonise the area. Being a part of the Poplar family they are prone to a condition called Poplar scab which can seriously weaken the tree. In Manchester over 1,700 Black poplar trees were felled due to the spread and severity of the infection.
The underside of the leaves are covered in white wooly hair
The bark is white with black diamond-shaped pores, called lenticels
This tree is the most likely to stand out in the distance and can sometimes look like it's covered in snow. In suitable conditions White poplar can grow up to 20 meters. The underside of the leaves are covered in white coloured hairs and the younger twigs are also coated with the same fine white hairs. As the tree grows older the twigs become more knobbly and they lose the hairy coating. The buds are pressed fairly closely to the twig which is a common trait for members of the Willow family.
The canopy is quite open and allows a lot of light to the ground
On a windy day they really stand out with the shimmers of white
White poplar is dioecious which means the male and female flowers are on separate trees. The flowers (catkins) are wind pollinated and dangle freely to allow the pollen to be blown by the wind. The male catkins are red and the female catkins are a yellowish-green. Once fertilised the female catkins turn into white fluffy seeds during the late summer. If there is enough of them it might look like it's snowing!
A mature female flower (catkin)
Shallow / exposed roots are common for White poplar
The flowering season for White poplar is March to April so it provides an early source of food for a lot of our insects. Later on the seeds are often eaten by small birds such as tits and finches. The leaves are also a source of food for a wide variety of caterpillars such as the yellow-line quaker and sallow kitten. The wood has little use in the timber industry as it's very soft and not durable.