What is a Hybrid Poplar?:
A "hybrid" plant is produced when pollen
of one species is used to fertilize flowers of another species. A hybrid poplar is a tree resulting from the combining, either naturally or artificially, of various poplar species into a hybrid.
Hybrid poplars (Populus spp.) are among the fastest-growing trees in
North America and well suited for certain conditions. Poplar hybrids are not desirable
in many landscapes but can be of major importance under certain forestry conditions.
Should I Plant a Hybrid Poplar?:
It depends. The tree can be effectively used by tree farmers
and large property owners under certain conditions. Most hybrid poplars are a landscape nightmare when grown
in yards and parks. The Populus species are susceptible to fungal leaf spots that
defoliate trees by late summer. The poplar tree is extremely susceptible to a devastating
canker and dies an ugly death in just a few years. Still poplar just may be the most
planted ornamental tree in America.
Where Did the Hybrid Poplar Come From?:
Members of the willow family, hybrid poplars are crosses between North America's cottonwoods, aspens and Europe's poplars. Poplars were first used as windbreaks for European fields and hybridized in Britain in 1912 using a cross between European and North American species.
Planting of hybrid poplar for profit started in the 1970s. Forest
Service's Wisconsin lab led in U.S. hybrid poplar research. The Poplar has
restored its reputation by offering a new source for alternative fuels and fiber.
Why Grow Hybrid Poplar?:
* Hybrids grow six to ten times faster than similar species. Tree farmers can see economic returns in 10 to 12 years.
* Hybrid poplar research has reduced the disease problems. There are now commercially available disease resistant trees.
* Hybrids are easy to plant. You can plant an unrooted dormant cutting or "stick".
* Growth off stump sprouts insures future trees with little or no planting costs.
* There is an ever increasing list of primary uses being developed for hybrid poplar.
What are the Primary Commercial Uses of Hybrid Poplar?:
Pulpwood: There is an increasing need for aspen for the production
of wood products in the Lake States. Hybrid poplar may be substituted here.
Engineered Lumber Products: Hybrid poplar can be used in the process of making oriented
strand board and, possibly, structural lumber.
Energy: Burning wood does not increase atmospheric carbon monoxide(CO). The hybrid poplar absorbs
as much CO over its lifetime as is given off in burning so it "mitigates" amount of CO given off.
What are Alternative Uses of Hybrid Poplar?:
Hybrid poplar is extremely beneficial in ways not directly profitable.
Property owners can stabilize stream banks and agricultural lands by planting and encouraging
hybrid poplar growth. Windbreaks of poplar have protected fields in Europe for centuries. In
addition to protecting soil from wind erosion the windbreaks protect livestock and humans from
cold winds and increase wildlife habitat and aesthetics.
Phytoremediation and the Hybrid Poplar:
In addition to the above values of hybrid poplar, it makes an
excellent "phytoremediator". Willows and specifically hybrid
poplar have the ability to take up harmful waste products and lock them away in their
woody stems. Municipal and corporate institutions are becoming more and more encouraged by
new research showing the benefits of planting hybrid poplar to naturally clean up toxic