Trembling aspen

Category: Hardwood
Region: Interior
Title: Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Trembling aspen is a slender, graceful tree with smooth, greenish white bark and distinctive leaves that quiver in the slightest breeze.

Trembling aspen is the most common of the fast-growing, small-diameter species used to make oriented strand board (OSB) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL). Aspen has gained acceptance in the construction market as studs, and its bright white colour is well suited to appearance applications.

It is found throughout BC east of the Coast Range.

Where it grows

Trembling aspen grows in many soil conditions across the BC interior from sea level to 3,000 metres and is especially common in the northeast. It often appears in even-aged, pure stands and has a shorter lifespan than most trees due to its susceptibility to decay. Aspen sprout from root suckers and form clones of individual stems. Many kinds of wildlife use the foliage, twigs and buds for food.

Did you know?

Oriented strand board is a widely used, economical structural wood panel that uses fast-growing species like aspen to make efficient use of forest resources. The panels are made from thin strands of wood sliced from small-diameter roundwood logs or blocks and bonded together with a waterproof phenolic adhesive that is cured under heat and pressure.

Common uses and applications

Aspen is the most common species used for oriented strand board (OSB) and can be used to produce high-quality laminated veneer lumber (LVL) for headers, joists, beams and planks. It can be sawn into studs for construction lumber under National Lumber Grades Authority rules, and there is interest in producing it for millwork.

Indigenous peoples have many uses for aspen, including medicine, food and a source of poles, canoe paddles and bowls. Aspen bark contains salicylates, the original basis for aspirin. Lye made from aspen ashes and animal fat is turned into soap and used to prepare moose hides.

Trembling aspen is often grouped with black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) and balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera ssp. balsamifera)—two varieties of the same species. Balsam poplar is used for pulp and construction, and black cottonwood is used to make tissues and other paper products.

Commercial properties

Trembling aspen wood is light and soft, with a straight, fine, even-textured grain. It can be used for appearance applications due to its bright white colour. It has good planing and turning performance, good screw retention, and resistance to splitting. It is moderately easy to glue and finishes well.

Commercial availability

Appearance and millworking grades can be produced according to National Hardwood Lumber Association rules. The lumber is dried according to end use and customer specifications. Kiln drying inhibits natural staining of the wood, improves its strength and stiffness, enhances its appearance, and increases its resistance to decay and insect attacks.