I like Quaking Aspen trees, however I know they tend to sucker. I have a 20 x...

Asked January 23, 2014, 8:17 PM EST

I like Quaking Aspen trees, however I know they tend to sucker. I have a 20 x 30 ft area in back corner of 1/2 + acre yard. Would Quaking Aspens be advisable for that area for a woodland corner?. There are currently dead elms that have to be removed.

Anoka County Minnesota

1 Response

Quaking aspen do have attractive foliage, especially when breezes blow. And a marvelous sound. Populus tremuloides, quaking aspen is also known as a member of the poplar family. Aspen are either male or female, and groves are usually one gender or the other and not mixed. So they do not grow reliably from seed, but do send out suckers from the root system, as you have noted. They are not a long-lived tree, and tend to die off at about 12-15 years, leaving more root systems to deal with. They are not a useful lumber source, and are used as firewood only when other, more preferable wood is not available.

In the mid 1990's scientists noted dieback among groves as well as single aspen. No cause has been tied to this phenomenon. It has been speculated that the dieback may be associated with U.S. fire supression policy changes and practices. Life spans can be shortened further by one or more of several insects or diseases that attack aspen. Fungal diseases, such as Cytospora or other cankers which attack the trunk, are common, as are diseases of the foliage such as rusts, or leaf spots. Of the many insects that attack urban plantings of aspen, oystershell scale, aphids and aspen twiggall fly are most prevalent.

The link below has more information on aspens and other replacement cultivars for your space left by elms. While aspen do grow on northern tallgrass prairies, they do well in the western mountain area, and lower humidity levels are a big factor there. However, even in Colorado, aspens have been banned from being planted in urban communities because of their invasive growth habit and support of fungal and insect infestations. Not to be a complete buzzkill, but I wanted to make sure you know the story before settling on a cultivar that can be miserable to live with. The article below has alot of information and links on trees that will be pleasing and suitable for your yard.

Trees, Shrubs and Vines for Minnesota:
http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/trees-shrubs/#selection