Balsam poplars, also called Balsam Cottonwood and Western Balsam Poplar, can be up to 30 metres tall. They have catkin flowers and grey, wrinkled bark that becomes smooth and yellow-white near the top.
RANGE & HABITAT
These trees often grow on the eastern slopes of hillsides in moist soils near rivers or floodplains, but they can also grow in rocky soils. You can find them from coast to coast across the northern part of North America.
In July, they send out seeds the look like puffy, white cotton, which is why they are also called ‘cottonwood’ trees.
Bees use the sticky and fragrant resin from balsam buds to make propolis (a sticky substance they use to seal up any cracks in their hives). Balsam poplars actually produce a chemical that deters snowshoe hares from eating the twigs and young trees! However, many kinds of wildlife do eat the twigs for food.
TRADITIONAL USES BY IDIGENOUS PEOPLES
The bark can be boiled and applied to wounds or fed to children to treat for worms. Other parts of the tree are also used to make glue, canoes, rope and soap.
This tree’s soft wood is used for lumber and log houses. The resin is used in ointments.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Photo: Adam Jones