Quaking Aspen
The golden leaves contrast
wonderfully with their whitish
gray bark. Aspens are usually
around 20-50 feet high with a
spread of 10-30 feet. They
typically live to be 80 to 100
years old.

Quaking aspens are quick to
spread into disturbed areas,
such as areas devastated by
fire or an avalanche. Many
animals depend on aspen groves;
some eat the twigs and bark
including beaver, elk, and deer.
Many birds such as Mountain
Chickadees, Violet Green
Swallows, and Red-breasted
Nuthatches use aspens as a
nesting site, some building on
branches, some making cavities
in the trees' trunks.
Populus is the genus name, which
will remind some of poplars.
Poplar trees, cottonwood trees,
willows, and aspen are all in the
same botanical family,
Salicaceae. Salicaceae will
remind perhaps the more
inquisitive of salicylic acid, or
another derivative of this
chemical, acetyl salicylic acid,
a.k.a. asprin. Salicylic acid can be
derived from willow bark and
willow bark tea is one of the
oldest natural remedies for our
everyday aches and pains.

Tremuloides comes from the
Latin word tremulus meaning
trembling or quaking. Look closely
at one of the leaf stalks and you
will see it is flattened and thus
allows the leaf to quake in a
breeze and create a rustling
noise. There is nothing nicer than
walking through an aspen grove on
a beautiful autumn day and seeing
the leaves shimmer and hearing
their voices.
Quaking aspen have a wider range
than any other North American
tree. They grow from Alaska and
Newfoundland south to central
Mexico. They love cold weather
and are thus found at higher
elevations and in northern
latitudes.

An aspen grove looks as if it is
made up of separate trees, but
the trees usually share a root
system. Essentially, they are one
organism with many roots, an
organism that can grow to huge
proportions, cross
a meadow or climb a mountain.
There is a 106-acre stand of
aspens south of Salt Lake City,
Utah, that contends with the
General Sherman giant sequoia
tree to be the largest living
organism on earth. Visitors to this
stand may think they are hiking
through an aspen forest, but it is
all one tree, about 47,000
genetically identical stems rising
from a common root system.
Quaking aspen trees (Populus
tremuloides
), with their
shimmering golden fall leaves,
are one of my favorite trees. I
grew up in Bishop, California, on
the eastern side of the Sierra,
where they grow abundantly in
canyons above 8,000 feet
including Bishop Creek and Rock
Creek. However, we are very
fortunate to have them growing
on the western side of the
Sierra as well. They can be found
up along the Great Western
Divide Highway in the Giant
Sequoia National Monument.
Where should you go to view
them? Well, starting at Quaking
Aspen Campground would be a
good bet! The best times to view
the fall colors are generally
after the first frost in late
September or early October.