Black Poplar

©Neil Wyatt

Black poplar

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Scientific name: Populus nigra
The black poplar is a large tree of floodplains, flooded gravel pits and ditches, particularly in England. Despite being an important part of our culture for centuries, it has declined massively.

Top facts


Height: 20-25m

Conservation status

One of Britain's rarest trees.

When to see

January to December


Our native and wild black poplar is a massive tree, with a thick, fissured trunk, that can be found on floodplains, around flooded gravel pits and along ditches. It is particularly prevalent in Shropshire, Cheshire, Somerset, the Vale of Aylesbury and East Anglia, but populations have declined massively over the years. Black poplars have formed an important part of our landscape and culture for centuries, from being landmarks and a focus for celebration, to inspiring the famous painter, Constable, and providing timber for floorboards.

What to look for

The black poplar has deeply fissured bark, knobbly 'bosses' on its trunk and spreading branches that often touch the ground, before sweeping upwards again in a mass of twigs. It displays red catkins.

Where to find

Found in England and Wales.

Did you know?

To reproduce, male and female black poplars need to be sited close to each other. The fertilised seeds need to fall on damp ground, making river valleys perfect places for this species. But the drainage of the land for agricultural has made it difficult for these wetland trees and they have slowly disappeared from the landscape. A recent survey estimated there are only 7000 black poplars in England, Wales and Ireland, of which 600 are female.