Aspen: The “wow” tree of the mountains

aspen colors
There no shortage of vibrant color in fall where the aspen grows. Photo: Don Hanley.

Aspen (Populus tremuloides) is one of the most beautiful trees of the fall season in the West. Its bright yellow leaves and creamy white bark against a backdrop of blue sky makes walkers pause in their tracks. No other tree species casts its autumn spell as broadly as aspen. These distinctive trees can be found in almost every mountain vegetation zone across North America — from northern Canada and Alaska to the mountains of central Mexico. Worldwide, only the European aspen and Scotch pine have greater natural ranges.

But it’s not just about good looks: a healthy stand of aspen benefits wildlife, protects watersheds, and contributes to healthy forest ecosystems. Aspen leaves and buds are a favorite food for wildlife such as grouse and turkeys, particularly in the winter when insects and other food items are scarce. Aspen stands also are rich in forage for sheep and cattle — about ten times more forage than a similar-sized stand of conifer trees.

Learn more about the aspen and see great photos of these stunning trees in the latest issue of Forest Stewardship Notes, a free e-newsletter published online each quarter by DNR and Washington State University Forestry Extension.

Interested in getting an email alert when new issues of Forest Stewardship Notes are published? Sign up here. It’s free!

Follow DNR on: Facebook Fan See us on Flickr Watch us YouTube Follow us on Twitter Follow DNR Fire Twitter