Uses for Poplar Trees

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Poplar trees make good windbreaks, decorative trees and have pliable wood.
Poplar trees make good windbreaks, decorative trees and have pliable wood. (Image: Winter a poplar image by Viktor Khomenko from Fotolia.com)

Poplar trees are part of the Salicaceae family. The sub-family, or genus, Populus encompasses poplar, aspen and cottonwood trees. Tall, graceful poplar trees have both decorative and practical uses. The Mona Lisa was painted on a poplar base, for example. The flexible wood has several applications, but other parts of the tree are useful, too.

Ornamental Trees

Poplars grow quickly and remain narrow, which means they make decent ornamental trees and wind breaks. Especially in variants where the branches don't spread, but shoot directly upwards, parks may use them to line driveways or roads. However, homeowners should know that the roots spread out quickly and far, which may damage house foundations. If you don't have a lot of land between you and the house, choose something else.

Poplars lining a road.
Poplars lining a road. (Image: avenue of poplar trees image by david hughes from Fotolia.com)

Pulp and Paper

Commercial plantations grow poplar for pulp wood, which is then made into paper. The United States Forestry Service (USFS) notes that poplar has a high cellulose content and a low lignin, or fiber, content, which means it can be used for paper as fine as tissue, as refined as formal letterhead--or as tough as kraft.

Poplar pulp is versatile and lends itself to a variety of paper types.
Poplar pulp is versatile and lends itself to a variety of paper types. (Image: paper image by max blain from Fotolia.com)

Timber

When the quality of wood doesn't matter, you can use poplar. Uses of poplar wood include pallets and plywood. According to the USFS, the use of poplar in products such as fiberboard is one of the success stories of this tree, a growing industry in both senses of the word.

Poplar wood is used in pallets.
Poplar wood is used in pallets. (Image: dumpster and pallet image by Lucid_Exposure from Fotolia.com)

Products

If you've ever seen Camembert cheese in a wooden box, there's a chance it was made from poplar. The wood made it possible to start shipping Camembert. Some matches and chopsticks are made from poplar wood, and you'll even find the wood used in snowboard cores--its flexibility and lightness becomes an important factor. Violins and other string instruments may also employ poplar.

Camebert may be shipped in poplar boxes.
Camebert may be shipped in poplar boxes. (Image: Delicious camembert and fresh grape image by Monika 3 Steps Ahead from Fotolia.com)

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