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Photo for species Populus_balsamifera
Balsam poplar has the northernmost distribution of any hardwood tree in North America. Isolated populations can even be found north of the Arctic Circle!
Photo Credit:
© 2008 Ted Niehaus. Courtesy of life.nbii.gov.

Populus balsamifera

balsam poplar
What does this species look like?
What does this species look like?: 
Populus balsamifera is a deciduous, perennial tree that can reach 30 to 80 feet in height. Balsam poplar can occur as a single-stemmed tree, or as clones of multiple, genetically identical stems growing together in a stand. The bark of balsam poplar is smooth and light gray to brown and furrows when mature. The buds are long (approximately 1 in.), reddish-brown, resinous, and very fragrant with a spicy aroma like cinnamon. The foliage is a shiny, dark green above and pale green below. The flowers of balsam poplar are yellow-green catkins that generally appear before the leaves; male and female catkins are on separate trees. Male catkins are shed earlier in the spring than female catkins. The fruit is a capsule that splits into two sections when ripe; the seeds are cottony and are dispersed by the wind.
 
Populus balsamifera is primarily a tree of boreal and montane forests, especially in Alaska and Canada. In the U.S. lower 48 states, it is common in the Great Lakes region and northern New England, and in parts of the Rocky Mountains (especially Colorado and Wyoming). It has also been observed in more isolated stands further south (in NY, PA, OH, and WV). Balsam poplar grows mainly in riparian areas such as river floodplains, stream and lake shores, swamps, and moist conifer forests, but will tolerate drier sites. Balsam poplar likes full sun and moist soils.
 
Large and small mammals, including elk, mountain goat, sheep, deer, bear, and beaver use the twigs and bark of Populus balsamifera for food. Beavers use this tree for building dams that attract birds and other aquatic animals. Balsam popular is also used for cover by some mammals and birds. The leaves are food for the larvae of various butterflies, including the viceroy (Limenitis archippus) butterfly. Bees are also attracted to the fragrance of the tree's flowers.
Where is this species found?
States & Provinces: 
AB, AK, BC, CA, CO, CT, DC, IA, ID, IL, IN, MA, MB, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, NB, ND, NH, NL, NS, NT, NU, NV, NY, OH, ON, OR, PA, PE, QC, RI, SD, SK, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY, YT
Special Considerations for Observing
If drought seems to be the cause of leaf color or fall for a plant, please make a comment to that effect.

This species has separate male and female plants. If you know whether the plant(s) you are observing are male or female (or both), please make a comment to that effect.

Which phenophases should I observe?
Leaves

Do you see...?

Breaking leaf buds
One or more breaking leaf buds are visible on the plant. A leaf bud is considered "breaking" once a green leaf tip is visible at the end of the bud, but before the first leaf from the bud has unfolded to expose the leaf stalk (petiole) or leaf base.

How many buds are breaking?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

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Leaves
One or more live, unfolded leaves are visible on the plant. A leaf is considered "unfolded" once its entire length has emerged from a breaking bud, stem node or growing stem tip, so that the leaf stalk (petiole) or leaf base is visible at its point of attachment to the stem. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves.

What percentage of the potential canopy space is full with leaves? Ignore dead branches in your estimate of potential canopy space.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Increasing leaf size
A majority of leaves on the plant have not yet reached their full size and are still growing larger. Do not include new leaves that continue to emerge at the ends of elongating stems throughout the growing season.

What percentage of full size are most leaves?

Less than 25%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Colored leaves
One or more leaves show some of their typical late-season color, or yellow or brown due to drought or other stresses. Do not include small spots of color due to minor leaf damage, or dieback on branches that have broken. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves that remain on the plant.

What percentage of the potential canopy space is full with non-green leaf color? Ignore dead branches in your estimate of potential canopy space.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Falling leaves
One or more leaves are falling or have recently fallen from the plant. More...

Flowers

Do you see...?

Flowers or flower buds
One or more fresh open or unopened flowers or flower buds are visible on the plant. Include flower buds or inflorescences that are swelling or expanding, but do not include those that are tightly closed and not actively growing (dormant). Also do not include wilted or dried flowers. For Populus balsamifera, both the male and the female inflorescence is a catkin which is initially compact, but eventually unfolds to become longer and hang loosely from the branch. Once the flowers wilt, male catkins turn gray and dry up, and female catkins turn green and lengthen as the fruits develop.

How many flowers and flower buds are present? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), simply estimate the number of flower heads, spikes or catkins and not the number of individual flowers.

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

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Open flowers
One or more open, fresh flowers are visible on the plant. Flowers are considered "open" when the reproductive parts (male stamens or female pistils) are visible between or within unfolded or open flower parts (petals, floral tubes or sepals). Do not include wilted or dried flowers. For Populus balsamifera, the flowers will open once the initially compact catkin has unfolded and is hanging loosely.

What percentage of all fresh flowers (buds plus unopened plus open) on the plant are open? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), estimate the percentage of all individual flowers that are open.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Pollen release
One or more flowers on the plant release visible pollen grains when gently shaken or blown into your palm or onto a dark surface.

How much pollen is released?

Little: Only a few grains are released.;Some: Many grains are released.;Lots: A layer of pollen covers your palm, or a cloud of pollen can be seen in the air when the wind blows

Fruits

Do you see...?

Fruits
One or more fruits are visible on the plant. For Populus balsamifera, the fruit is a tiny capsule that changes from bright green to dull green and splits open to expose seeds with white fluff. Do not include empty capsules that have already dropped all of their seeds.

How many fruits are present?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

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Ripe fruits
One or more ripe fruits are visible on the plant. For Populus balsamifera, a fruit is considered ripe when it has turned dull green and has split open to expose seeds with white fluff. Do not include empty capsules that have already dropped all of their seeds.

What percentage of all fruits (unripe plus ripe) on the plant are ripe?

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Recent fruit or seed drop
One or more mature fruits or seeds have dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit. Do not include obviously immature fruits that have dropped before ripening, such as in a heavy rain or wind, or empty fruits that had long ago dropped all of their seeds but remained on the plant.

How many mature fruits have dropped seeds or have completely dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

More...