Lombardy Poplar

Common name Lombardy Poplar
Botanical name Populus nigra ‘Italica’
Family Saliaceae
Natural range Mediterranean
Mature height to 30m
Form Upright slender tree
Likes Most soils, very adapatable
Dislikes Diseases
Where to plant Lining your driveway?
Known for Upright form

What Makes Poplar Trees So Unique?

Named after its birthplace, Lombardy in Northern Italy, the Lombardy Poplar or scientifically known as Populus nigra ‘Italica’, is renowned for its distinctive, appealing upward sweeping branches. The upright growth is quite a delightful contrast to the more random, sprawling structure of the ordinary Black Poplar.

How did the Lombardy Poplar Gain Popularity?

The unexpected mutation of a single tree around the 17th century into this neat, stately figure was embraced with open arms. The beauty of Poplars is their simplicity in propagation; a fragment from the parent tree planted in the soil is all it takes to bring a new tree to life. As the new tree variety propagated and spread across Europe, it gained recognition for its slender, attractive form, wind-breaking capabilities, and remarkably, casting only a minimal shadow.

What Makes Poplars Vulnerable?

On the flip side, Lombardy Poplars have proven to be susceptible to several diseases, with Golden Canker being a notable one. In addition to its disease-prone nature, the wood of a dying Lombardy Poplar lacks durability, often leading to the breakage of large branches. This fragility persists, particularly in regions with high humidity, such as parts of Australia.

What is the Lifespan of a Lombardy Poplar?

Though adored by landscapers in the 70s and 80s for their uniformity when lined along driveways, paths, riversides, or formal gardens, Lombardy Poplars proved to be somewhat of a disappointment as they aged. At approximately the 40-50 year point, these relatively short-lived trees begin shedding branches and become increasingly susceptible to being toppled over in strong winds. This typically triggers a domino effect, as the loss of each tree successively exposes its neighbours to increased wind exposure.

What are the Implications of Poplar’s Invasive Root Systems?

The Lombardy Poplar’s vertical growth pattern, referred to as ‘fastigiate’, results in a very narrow tree crown. However, another significant factor to consider when deciding a planting location for these trees is their invasive root systems. The roots of a Lombardy Poplar are known to lift footpaths and driveways and may even infiltrate underground structures such as septic tanks.

Further Reading and Interesting Facts

For a more in-depth historical exploration of Lombardy Poplars, delve into “The Lombardy Poplar” by James R. Fazio and Dennis G. Lestition.

Maintenance and Care for Lombardy Poplars

If you are considering planting a Lombardy Poplar or are looking for care advice, “How to Plant & Care for Lombardy Poplar Trees” is an excellent resource.

Diseases that Affect Poplars

To learn more about the diseases that Lombardy Poplars are vulnerable to, such as Golden Canker, “Common Diseases of Poplar Trees” is a good start.

Fascinating Facts
  1. Origins: The Lombardy Poplar owes its existence to a single mutated tree from the 17th century.
  2. Lifespan: Unlike many tree species, Lombardy Poplars have a relatively short lifespan, with most living between 40 to 50 years.
  3. Disease Prone: These trees are susceptible to a variety of diseases, making them somewhat delicate in their environment.
  4. Invasive Roots: The root system of Lombardy Poplars is quite intrusive, known to lift paths and infiltrate underground structures.
  5. Fast Growth: Lombardy Poplars are rapid growers, making them popular for quick landscaping, but their fast growth is also a contributing factor to their short lifespan.
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