How Far Do Poplar Roots Spread?

Written by alexis lawrence
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Poplar can refer to a couple of different tree species: the Cottonwood tree and the Balsam tree. These tree varieties have some similar characteristics, including leaf colour and shape, but also have some differences, including height. Like most trees, the spread of a Poplar trees roots is dependent on the height and crown size of the tree.

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Cottonwood Trees

Different varieties of cottonwood trees grow in many areas throughout the United States. While these trees have some varying characteristics, most cottonwoods grow to heights between 50 and 80 feet, though some species grow to heights up to 150 feet. Dependent on water, cottonwoods often thrive around rivers and lakes. Aside from the green foliage, which yellows in the fall, cottonwoods produce small fruits and cotton-like seed tufts on their branches.

Balsam Poplars

The northernmost-growing hardwood tree in the United States, balsam poplars like moist environments and produce small fruits in the spring months. Balsam poplars produce spring-blooming flowers clusters and seeds. The trees can grow as tall as cottonwoods, commonly reaching heights between 75 and 100 feet, according to John C. Zasada and Howard M. Phipps of the Wisconsin Basin Education Initiative.

Hybrid Poplar

Horticulturalists often intentionally splice and graft poplar trees to create new species, but the trees may also naturally occur wherever cottonwood trees and balsam poplar trees meet in nature. When hybrid trees exist, they generally have some characteristics of both parent trees, including the budding and fruiting capabilities.

Root Spread

Like most trees, the root spread of cottonwood, balsam poplar or hybrid poplar trees depends mostly on the size of the tree. Poplar roots are aggressive growers and the root system of each tree can extend to a diameter equal to the height of the tree. Since poplar roots also grow just beneath the ground's surface, this creates a variety of issues when a poplar tree grows near a structure.

Issues Caused By Root Spread

Some issues created by the wide spread of poplar roots include the breaking or dislodging of concrete surfaces, such as patios, driveways or sidewalks; above-ground roots; or structural damage if the roots get underneath your house, porch or deck. The best way to protect structures from this type of root damage is to plant trees at a safe distance of 150 or 200 feet from all structures and fixtures.

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