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Quaking Aspen

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Native Americans, Americans of Non-Native descent and native flora and fauna all find the Quaking Aspen important to their communities. Permaculture and culture make an argument for each other.

HISTORY : Quaking aspen is a highly revered medicinal plant by Native American peoples.

The Penobscot used the liquid of steeped bark for colds.

Root of aspen was combined with balsam poplar and steeped by the Chippewa. It was used to prevent premature births.

The Algonkian used the leaves in medicine for infants, and the roots in a decoction as a general tonic.

The bark of young trees was used in poultices for cuts and wounds by the Ojibwa.

The Potawatomi would burn the bark and mix the ashes with lard. They would apply this salve to the wounds of horses.

Here is a really good online paper for further reading if interested.
Introduction to Holistic Restoration Forestry; Forested Landscapes of Southwest Oregon and Northern California - Dennis Martinez


Aspen is good to excellent forage for sheep, and fair for cattle. The twigs, bark, and buds are browsed by wildlife and birds eat the seeds. Grazing of aspen sprouts, especially by cattle and elk, is a growing concern in the maintenance of aspen stands.

Wild and domestic ungulates use quaking aspen for summer shade. Seral quaking aspen communities provide excellent hiding cover for moose, elk, and deer. Deer use quaking aspen stands for fawning grounds.

Well-stocked quaking aspen stands provide excellent watershed protection. The trees, the shrub and herbaceous understories, and the litter of quaking aspen stands provide nearly 100 percent soil cover. Soil cover and the intermixture of herbaceous and woody roots protect soil except during very intense rains. Quaking aspen intercepts less snow and transpires less water than conifers, so snowpack and runoff is greater under quaking aspen.

Quaking aspen is valued for its aesthetic qualities at all times of the year. The yellow, orange, and red foliage of autumn particularly enhances recreational value of quaking aspen sites.

The bark of quaking aspen was used by pioneers and American Indians as a fever remedy, as well as for scurvy. It contains salicin (similar to the active ingredient in aspirin). A substance similar to turpentine was extracted and used internally as an expectorant and externally as a counterirritant.

And finally, for forest friends of the trees:

Wildlife Habitat
    A stand of aspen provides habitat for lots of other organisms.  Mitton and Grant (1996) suggest that in the arid West aspen stands are second only in habitat importance to riparian zones.  Compared to coniferous forests, aspen stands have a rich understory of shrubs and herbaceous species (Gruell and Loope 1974).  An aspen canopy typically allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor than do conifers, and stands are renowned for the wildflowers found within them (Alban 1991).  Aspens offer more structural habitat diversity than conifers, like lodgepole pine or spruce (aspen stands are often islands in seas of these trees). The forage in a stand of aspen can be up to 6 times as rich as that under coniferous forests. (DeByle 1981). For instance, in eastern California’s White Mountains, where P. tremuloides account for 64% of the coverage at 2,900m, aspen provide the most productive woodland in the range (Vasek and Thomas 1988).  An aspen thicket has 3–4 layers of vegetation, from small trees like chokecherry and juniper, to shrubs like serviceberry and snowberry, to wildflowers, grasses, and sedges.  Aspens play an important role in the lives of an estimated 500 species, from bears to fungi (Madsen 1996).

    The leaves, twigs and bark are highly nutritious, and deer and elk use them for overwintering., since it’s food they don’t have to dig out of the snow (Madsen 1996). Black bears, cottontails, porcupine, and snowshoe hares feed on bark, buds, and foliage (Peattie 1953), and grouse and quail eat the winter buds (Little 1980).  Small mammals, such as shrews, mice, and voles abound (Alban 1991).  And, of course, aspen is a  favorite food and building material for Castor canadensis, the North American beaver (Hall 1960).

    The layered structure of an aspen grove is popular with birds,. Snags provide perches for birds of prey, and sites for cavity nesters.  Flack (1976) counted some forty bird species in stands ranging across the West, including canopy nesters like the warbling vireo, shrub nesters like the flycatcher, cavity nesters like the mountain bluebird, and ground nesters like the hermit thrush, as well as hummingbirds and birds of prey.  Increasing stand size increases diversity of insectivorous birds (Mitton and Grant 1996).  A good example of aspen’s importance as a food source is the sympatric range of the ruffed grouse, which feeds extensively on aspen buds (DeByle and Winokur 1985).

    In addition to providing key habitat for wildlife, aspen in their seral form may be important as a ‘nurse crop’ for  shade-tolerant species that do not become established in full sunlight, such as many coniferous tree species and forbs.  A mature aspen canopy passes more sunlight than a stand of conifers, yet provides partial shade as well.  These conditions may be especially well-suited to the growth requirements of some species, such as Engelmann spruce (DeByle and Winokur 1985).

Posts: 148
Location: South Central Idaho
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Quakies are a family and are inter-connected .. doze 40% of them for a home site .. and the other 60% dies.
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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I have a 4 acre stand of quacking aspen on my property and 10 acres adjoin on one neighbors side and another 6 acres on another neighbors side..and they are probably all from just a few trees, yes interconnected.

they make wonderful nurse trees and when the hardwoods start growing up in the midst of them, then the nearby aspens die.

if you cut down a live one, the roots will send up thousands of baby  trees all over, literally like grass.

i love them for deer browse here..and for the wild turkey, bear and birds..
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Thanks for such a wealth of information. I wonder can you answer one question?
I have planted aspens in my yard, and I would like to add shrubs below them. However, I could not find anywhere what companion plants are recommended for Aspen.
I would be grateful for any tip in either finding the info or which plants play well with Aspen.  

I have gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, keep me here with this tiny ad:
Rocket Mass Heater Plans - now free for a while
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