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29 February 2008

Populus alba (silver-leaf poplar)

Datasheet Types: Tree, Invasive species, Host plant

Abstract

This datasheet on Populus alba covers Identity, Overview, Associated Diseases, Pests or Pathogens, Distribution, Dispersal, Diagnosis, Biology & Ecology, Environmental Requirements, Natural Enemies, Impacts, Uses, Prevention/Control, Management, Genetics and Breeding, Economics, Further Information.

Identity

Preferred Scientific Name
Populus alba L.
Preferred Common Name
silver-leaf poplar
Variety
Populus alba var. hickeliana
Populus alba var. pyramidalis Bunge
Populus alba var. subintegerrima Lange
Other Scientific Names
Populus alba var. bolleana (Lauche) Ed. Otto
Populus alba var. croatica Wesm.
Populus alba var. nivea Aiton
Populus bolleana Lauche
International Common Names
English
white poplar
Spanish
álamo blanco
chopo blanco
French
peuplier blanc
peuplier de hollande
Portuguese
choupo branco
Local Common Names
Canada
silver poplar
China
xin bai yang
Denmark
solvpoppel
Germany
Silberpappel
Weisspappel
Italy
gattice
pioppo bianco
Japan
gin-doro
gin-doro hakuyo
hakuyo
urajiro-hako-yanagi
Netherlands
witte abeel
South Africa
witpopulier
Sweden
silverpoppel
Turkey
akkavak
USA
European white poplar
silver poplar
EPPO code
POPAL (Populus alba)

Pictures

Italy
Natural stand
Italy
Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura
25-year-old trees in early Spring. Casale Monferrato, Italy.
25-year-old trees
25-year-old trees in early Spring. Casale Monferrato, Italy.
Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura
P. alba cv. 'Villafranca' 12-year-old tree bark. Casale Monferrato, Italy.
Bark
P. alba cv. 'Villafranca' 12-year-old tree bark. Casale Monferrato, Italy.
Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura
P. alba cv. 'Villafranca' leaves.
Foliage
P. alba cv. 'Villafranca' leaves.
Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura
Female catkins, P. alba cv. 'Villafranca'.
Catkins
Female catkins, P. alba cv. 'Villafranca'.
Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura

Overview

Importance

P. alba, the white or silver-leaved poplar, is widely grown as an ornamental for its silvery foliage. It is a fast-growing tree utilized in afforestation and reforestation due to its resistance to drought, salt and wood borers. It is not as important commercially as poplar species of sect. Aigeiros, but its adaptation to warm conditions allows it to be cultivated in Mediterranean regions and in Central Asia.
P. alba is widely used in interspecific breeding programmes to introduce valuable traits, such as high rooting ability of stem cuttings, into economically more valuable species, particularly P. tremula of sect. Populus. P. alba hybridizes readily with this closely related species, the resulting hybrid, known as grey poplar (Populus x canescens), being intermediate morphologically between its parents, with a thin, grey, downy coating on the leaves, which are also much less deeply lobed than in white poplar. It exhibits marked hybrid vigour, with trees displaying vigorous growth and reaching 40 m in height and over 1.5 m in trunk diameter, much larger than either of its parents.
P. alba is suitable for propagation by tissue culture and is used as a subject for Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation.

Summary of Invasiveness

P. alba is a fast-growing tree utilized as an ornamental or in afforestation and reforestation for its resistance to drought, salt and borers (Sekawin, 1975; Jobling, 1990). It is not as important as poplar species of the Section Aigeiros, but its adaptation to warm conditions allows it to be cultivated in Mediterranean regions and in Central Asia. It is also utilized in interspecific breeding programmes to introduce the rooting ability of stem cuttings in other species of the Section Populus, particularly in P. tremula and North American aspens (Heimburger, 1968; Zsuffa, 1975). P. alba is suitable for tissue culture and Agrobacterium transformation.

Taxonomic Tree

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Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

The systematics of P. alba are intricate, as spontaneous hybridization with other species in Populus, Section Populus (P.tremula and other aspens) makes it difficult to separate pure species from hybrids. Bugala (1960) divided P. alba into five varieties, Fiori (1969) described eight; and others have considered these as separate species, with the subdivision by Dickmann and Stuart (1983) being generally accepted. From recent genetic analysis it seems that the var. tomentosa is a hybrid of P. alba and P. adenopoda (Li et al., 1997). A number of sub-generic taxa and their synonyms are included in Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (2008). The fastigiate form P. alba var. pyramidalis is treated in the Forestry Compendium in a separate data sheet. A better discrimination of poplar species will be possible in the future utilizing molecular techniques (Castiglione et al., 1993; Culot et al., 1995; Sanchez et al., 1998).

Plant Type

Perennial
Broadleaved
Seed propagated
Tree
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Description

The crown is broad and rounded, or pyramidal in var. pyramidalis. At maturity, it can reach a height of 30 m and a stem diameter in excess 100 cm, and the smooth, greenish-white bark becomes dark and rough on older trees. The trunk is straight, at times sinuous, with large branches inserted irregularly, which often bifurcate. The root system is lateral, shallow but expansive; the bark is grey-white, rough at the base in older trees only. It tends to produce abundant root suckers. It can live to 300-400 years old (Allegri, 1971). Leaves of long shoots are 6-12 cm long, relatively deeply lobed and palmate, the 3-5 lobes are coarsely dentate, the base is rounded-cordate, dark green above and white tomentose beneath; leaves of short shoots are smaller, oval-elliptic, sinuately dentate. Petioles are rounded and pubescent, 3-4 cm long. The staminate catkins are usually reddish, 5-8 cm long with 10-20 stamens; the fruiting catkins are 10-15 cm long; the capsules are bivalved; the pedicels are slender, 3-5 cm long.
Botanical Features

Habit

P. alba is a deciduous dioecious tree; the crown is broad and rounded, or pyramidal in var. pyramidalis.

Size

At maturity it reaches a height of 30 m and a stem diameter at breast height of 100 cm.

Stem form

The trunk is straight, at times sinuous, with large branches inserted irregularly, which often bifurcate.

Important characteristics

The root system is lateral, shallow but expansive; the bark is grey-white, rough at the base in older trees only. It tends to produce abundant root suckers. It can live to 300-400 years old (Allegri, 1971).

Foliage

Leaves of long shoots are 6-12 cm long, relatively deeply lobed and palmate, the 3-5 lobes are coarsely dentate, the base is rounded-cordate, dark green above and white tomentose beneath; leaves of short shoots are smaller, oval-elliptic, sinuately dentate. Petioles are rounded and pubescent, 3-4 cm long.

Inflorescences, flowers and fruits

The staminate catkins are usually reddish, 5-8 cm long with 10-20 stamens; the fruiting catkins are 10-15 cm long; the capsules are bivalved; the pedicels are slender, 3-5 cm long.

Phenology

Flowering begins in early spring, before leaf emergence, and fruits mature 6-8 weeks later.

Distribution

P. alba has a large native range from Morocco to China, including central and southern Europe, North Africa, Western and Central Asia (Allegri, 1967; Nevidomov, 1994; Modir-Rahmati, 1997).

Review of Natural Distribution

P. alba can be found spontaneously along river valleys in its large natural range: from central and southern Europe to North Africa and Western and Central Asia (Allegri, 1967; Nevidomov, 1994; Modir-Rahmati, 1997). It was introduced to North America as an ornamental tree and now appears to have become naturalized in many areas (Dickman and Stuart, 1982; USDA, 1992).It has been widely cultivated and has become widely naturalized (Streets, 1962).

Location of Introductions

It has been introduced into North America, South America, Australia and Korea, where it is now naturalized. It has become a weed in many states of the USA and planting is no longer recommended.

Distribution Map

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Distribution Table

This content is currently unavailable.

History of Introduction and Spread

It has been introduced into North America, South America, Australia, South Africa and Korea, mostly as an ornamental tree and now appears to have become naturalized in many areas and/or invasive (Streets, 1962; Dickman and Stuart, 1982). In Australia, it is restricted largely to the south coast. It is invasive in South Africa along with several other Populus spp., and invasive in New Zealand, Canada and parts of the USA (Haysom and Murphy, 2003). It is likely to be more widespread than indicated.

Risk of Introduction

P. alba has become a weed in many states of the USA and planting is no longer recommended.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

The masses of light, minute and hairy seeds are wind-dispersed, and can be transported long distances under the right conditions. However, in Illinois, USA, P. alba appears to reproduce mainly by suckers arising from the extensive lateral root system and can form large vegetative colonies or dense groves that are the primary threat this species poses to natural areas, shading out native vegetation (Glass, 1990).

Intentional Introduction

P. alba has been introduced internationally mostly as an ornamental.

Pathway Causes

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Both P. balsamifera and P. heterophylla are similar to P. alba, differing only by having more flattened leafstalks. The hybrid Populus x canescens of which P. alba is one of the parents is very similar in appearance but its smaller, toothed leaves do not form lobes. That invasive populations contain one or other closely-related Populus species or hybrids thereof should be ascertained before management options are considered.

Habitat

P. alba can be found spontaneously along river valleys in its expansive native range around the Mediterranean and in central Asia (Allegri, 1967; Nevidomov, 1994; Modir-Rahmati, 1997). P. alba is also cultivated in river valleys where the poplars of the section Aigeiros do not perform well. It is utilized in saline and calcareous soils and as windbreaks for salt wind near coasts (Cuevas et al., 1997). It is invasive in agricultural areas, natural forests, natural grasslands as well as riversides, establishing most rapidly in full sunlight. P. albacan aggressively invade natural areas, especially prairie communities, shading out native vegetation. It easily escapes cultivation and, if left unchecked, it can form dense groves that are hard to eradicate (Glass, 1990).

Habitat List

CategorySub categoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial    
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural landPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural landPresent, no further detailsProductive/non-natural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areasPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areasPresent, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedRail / roadsidesPresent, no further detailsProductive/non-natural
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forestsPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslandsPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanksPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanksPresent, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanksPresent, no further detailsProductive/non-natural
Littoral Coastal areasPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
Littoral Coastal areasPresent, no further detailsProductive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

Genetics

Qi et al. (2005) assessed the chromosome numbers of a number of Populus taxa, noting P. alba having 2n=28, and P. alba var. pyramidalis and var. bolleana with 2n=38, as had all other the taxa tested. P. alba has some desirable characteristics, such as tolerance to drought, salt and borers, and easy vegetative propagation, justifying its introduction in several breeding programmes, particularly in Mediterranean regions and Western and Central Asia. Populations were well differentiated by molecular markers according to their geographic provenance (Pagnotta et al., 1998). Collection and selection of natural clones has been carried out in Spain (Alba, 1992) and Hungary (Toth, 1996), and of drought tolerant clones of vars. hickeliana, subintegerrima and microphylla in Morocco, and a fastigiate and frost resistant cultivar in Russia (Sekawin, 1975). The cultivars ‘Kabudeh Schirazih’' and ‘Kabudeh Bumi’ are cultivated in Iran, the cultivar ‘Ankara AT’ in Turkey and ‘Villafranca’ in Italy and Hungary. P. alba var. pyramidalis ‘Bolleana’ has been cultivated in Western Europe and in Argentina (Jobling, 1990). P. alba can hybridize with all species of section Populus, sometimes spontaneously, for example the grey poplar P. canescens is considered to be a natural hybrid of P. alba and P. tremula, occurring where the range of the two species overlaps. Hybridization with species of other sections of Populus is also possible (Sekawin, 1975). P. alba has been the subject of intensive selection, artificial hybridisation, cloning and genetic modification.  

Reproductive Biology


P. alba
is a deciduous, dioecious tree. Flowering begins in early spring, before leaf emergence, and fruits mature 6-8 weeks later.  

Physiology and Phenology

Seeds germinate better when not covered with soils. For propagation and raising of planting stock, refer to Stanton and Villar (1996). P. alba can also be vegetatively propagated using stem cuttings 30-35 cm long (Dragomir and Duran, 1959). In countries where the species is cultivated P. alba is planted in soil which is not suitable for other poplar species (such as P. canadensis): for example, where the water table is inaccessible or the soil is poor or saline. Plantation density depends on the product to be obtained; 10,000 trees/ha for biomass energy (Facciotto and Schenone, 1998), 400-1000 trees/ha for pulpwood and sawlogs, and P. alba can tolerate a higher density than other poplar species, with fewer and smaller branches, but thinning is necessary, and pruning is essential to avoid stem forking (Facciotto, 1999). A normal rotation of P. alba is 18-25 years with a final density of 300-400 trees/ha, yielding 10-15 cubic metres/ha/year or 18-22 cubic metres/ha/year on optimal sites (Gambi, 1979).  

Environmental Requirements

  P. alba grows in warm temperate zones with bimodal or uniform rainfall regime, with mean annual rainfall is in the range 300-1000 mm with only a short dry season. It is thermophile and light demanding, and can tolerate dry summers (Sekawin, 1975). It performs well in warm temperate and subtropical regions where water is available in the soil. In cool temperate zones it finds less favourable conditions, suffering from excessive moisture conditions, low temperature and frost and in this zone the hybrid between P. alba and aspen (P. tremula) is preferable.
P. alba can tolerate dry, saline and calcareous soils, but prefers neutral, well-textured soil and good water availability (Os’kina and Bespalov, 1992; Rédei, 1998). It does not tolerate stagnant water. It can grow on flat or sloping areas, preferably south-facing.

Climate

P. alba grows in warm temperate zones with bimodal rainfall regime. It is thermophile and light demanding, and can tolerate dry summers (Sekawin, 1975). It performs well in warm temperate and subtropical regions where water is available in the soil. In cool temperate zones it finds less favourable conditions, suffering from excessive moisture conditions, low temperature and frost; in this zone the hybrid between P. alba and aspen (P. tremula) is preferable.

Soil and Physiography

P. alba can tolerate dry, saline and calcareous soil conditions, but to perform well it needs a pH near 7, a well-textured soil and good water availability (Osikina and Bespalov, 1992; Rédei, 1998). It does not tolerate stagnant water. It can grow on flat or sloping areas, preferably south-facing.

Vegetation Types

bottomland forests
riparian forests

Climate

Climate typeDescriptionPreferred or toleratedRemarks
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climateAverage temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°CPreferred 
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all yearWarm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all yearTolerated 
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summerWarm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summersPreferred 
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winterWarm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)Tolerated 

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude lower (m)Altitude upper (m)
502503000

Air Temperature

ParameterLower limit (°C)Upper limit (°C)
Absolute minimum temperature-45 
Mean annual temperature820
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month1430
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month-515

Rainfall

ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration12number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall3001000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Summer
Bimodal

Soil Tolerances

Soil texture > light
Soil texture > medium
Soil texture > heavy
Soil reaction > neutral
Soil reaction > alkaline
Soil drainage > free
Special soil tolerances > shallow
Special soil tolerances > saline

Soil Types

alluvial soils
cambisols
fluvisols
sandy soils

Notes on Pests

P. alba, like other poplars, is host to a large number of insect species but only a few of these are of any importance. Leaf and trunk damage can be found in nurseries as well as in stands.Among the insects, the defoliating moth Hyphantria cunea and the large poplar-leaf beetle (Chrysomela populi) play an important role. Borers prefer other poplar wood to that of P. alba. However, attacks of Cossus cossus and Saperda spp. are occasionally reported. Defoliating insects and borers can be controlled, especially in nurseries, by spraying with insecticides. Among the fungi the main defoliating agents are rusts (Melampsora spp.) and Marssonina castagnei. Both can cause premature defoliation of trees. Anamorph Venturia attacks leaves and young shoots causing complete defoliation and deformation of the shoot/branch early in spring.Serious attacks of Agrobacterium tumefaciens cause cankering and damage the plants.Fungi can be controlled using fungicides or by selecting varieties or clones which are tolerant or resistant (FAO, 1980).

List of Pests

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Notes on Natural Enemies

P. alba, like other poplars, is host to a large number of insect species, but only a few of these are of any importance. Among insects, the defoliating moth, Hyphantria cunea, and the large poplar-leaf beetle, Chrysomela populi, play an important role. Borers prefer other poplar wood to that of P. alba, however, attacks of Cossus cossus and Saperda spp. are occasionally reported. Among the fungi the main defoliating agents are rusts (Melampsora spp.) and Marssonina castagnei and both can cause premature defoliation of trees. The anamorph Venturia attacks leaves and young shoots causing complete defoliation and deformation of the shoot/branch early in spring. Serious attacks of Agrobacteriumtumefaciens cause cankering and damage the plants.

Natural enemies

Impact Summary

CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenityPositive
Economic/livelihoodPositive
Environment (generally)Positive and negative

Impact: Environmental

The capacity of P. alba to grow in a wide range of soils and to produce a large quantity of seeds and root suckers allows it to compete with many native tree and shrub species in sunny areas such as forest edges and abandoned fields and outside of its natural range it interferes with revegetation of these areas (Remaley and Swearingen, 1998).
P. alba is an aggressive exotic tree species that can take over portions of natural areas, especially prairie communities, shading out native vegetation. It easily escapes cultivation and, if left unchecked, it can form dense groves that are hard to eradicate (Glass, 1990).

Impact: Social

The cultivation of pistillate clones that produce large quantities of fruit pappus can be a nuisance for people who live near plantations. Furthermore, it can be dangerous as it is easily inflammable. The pollen of male clones can also provoke allergic reactions.

Risk and Impact Factors

Invasiveness

Proved invasive outside its native range
Has a broad native range
Abundant in its native range
Is a habitat generalist
Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
Pioneering in disturbed areas
Highly mobile locally
Long lived
Fast growing
Has high reproductive potential
Reproduces asexually
Has high genetic variability

Impact outcomes

Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
Modification of successional patterns
Monoculture formation
Negatively impacts agriculture
Reduced native biodiversity
Threat to/ loss of native species

Impact mechanisms

Causes allergic responses
Competition - monopolizing resources
Competition - shading
Rapid growth

Likelihood of entry/control

Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
Difficult/costly to control

Uses

P. alba has been used for windbreaks, erosion control along river banks and roadsides, land reclamation, agroforestry and ornamental uses in gardens for its silver foliage (Hao, 1997; Matthei, 1997; Shao et al., 1998). Natural stands of P. alba do not provide high-quality wood, suitable only for local and artisan use (Kasir and Shahbaz, 1985). On the other hand, specialized plantations offer the advantage of higher wood homogeneity necessary for industrial purposes, such as domestic furnishing, and semi-finished solid wood products for carpentry, shutters and structural uses, domestic woodware, toys; sports equipment, crates, boxes, pallets, wood wool, veneers, vehicle bodies; fibreboard and particleboard, mechanical pulpwood for paper and semi-chemical cellulose (Giordano, 1980), also to a lesser extent for making matches, wooden frames, clogs, wooden soles for shoes, and sticks for ice-lollies, also as round wood for posts and building poles, and charcoal. Leaves and young shoots can be collected for cattle feed.

Uses: Wood Uses

Natural stands of P. alba do not provide high-quality wood. It is suitable for local and artisan use only (Kasir and Shahbaz, 1985). On the other hand, specialized plantations offer the advantage of higher wood homogeneity, necessary for industrial purposes. In the past, due to its resistance to borers, it was largely utilized for domestic furnishing (Gambi, 1979).

Wood density is 353 kg/m3. The main uses of P. alba wood can be grouped in two categories. Firstly, semi-finished products of solid wood for carpentry, sawnwood for shutters and structural uses, packaging of different types (crates and boxes), pallets, wood wool, fibreboards and particleboards, mechanical pulpwood for paper and semi-chemical cellulose (Giordano, 1980). Secondly, matches, wooden frames, clogs, wooden soles for shoes, and sticks for ice-lollies.

Uses: Non-Wood Uses

Leaves and young shoots can be collected for cattle feed.

Uses: Land Uses

P. alba has been used for windbreaks, erosion control along river banks and roadbeds, reclamation of surface-mined lands and former seabeds, and ornamental uses in gardens for its silver foliage (Hao, 1997; Matthei, 1997; Shao et al., 1998).

Uses List

Environmental > Agroforestry
Environmental > Amenity
Environmental > Land reclamation
Environmental > Revegetation
Environmental > Shade and shelter
Environmental > Windbreak
Environmental > Ornamental
Materials > Wood/timber
Fuels > Charcoal
Fuels > Fuelwood
Animal feed, fodder, forage > Fodder/animal feed
Animal feed, fodder, forage > Forage

Wood Products

Charcoal
Containers > Boxes
Containers > Crates
Containers > Pallets
Furniture
Pulp > Short-fibre pulp
Roundwood > Building poles
Roundwood > Posts
Roundwood > Roundwood structures
Sawn or hewn building timbers > Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
Sawn or hewn building timbers > For light construction
Vehicle bodies
Veneers
Wood wool
Wood-based materials > Composite boards
Wood-based materials > Fibreboard
Wood-based materials > Improved wood
Wood-based materials > Particleboard
Wood-based materials > Wood cement
Woodware > Industrial and domestic woodware
Woodware > Matches
Woodware > Sports equipment
Woodware > Toys

Prevention and Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Control

 

Cultural control and sanitary measures

  Glass (1990) notes that very little research has been carried out on controlling P. alba specifically and many of the following methods are those that have proved successful with ‘aspens’ (used on several closely related Populus species). However, it should be accurately identified before attempting any control measures. If identification of the species is in doubt, the plant&apos;s identity should be confirmed by a knowledgeable individual and/or by consulting appropriate books (Glass, 1990). Prescribed burning can be effective in controlling Populus, but repeated burns are needed as a single burn may increase the number of suckers, and all above-ground suckers and trunks must be killed during the first year for maximum effectiveness, and biennial burns is effective especially if used with cutting (Glass, 1990).  

Physical/mechanical control

Girdling of the parent tree and any suckers over 5 cm in diameter can be effective although dense resprouting can still occur. Cutting during the summer (June-August) appears to decrease suckering in the USA, and cutting twice at the beginning an end of summer can also be effective (Glass, 1990).  

Biological control

No effective biological controls are known that are feasible in natural areas.  

Chemical control

Triclopyr is effective as a basal bark or cut-stump treatment, and is best used in the dormant season to lessen damage to non-target species, and glyphosate can also be used as a foliar-applied spray (Glass, 1990).

Silviculture Characteristics

P. alba is cultivated in river valleys where poplars of sect. Aigeiros do not perform well. It is grown in saline and calcareous soils and can be used in windbreaks for salt wind near coasts (Cuevas et al., 1997) and for dune stabilization. It is particularly suited to planting in regions with hot summers and mild or cold winters.

Silviculture Characteristics

Tolerates > drought
Tolerates > wind
Tolerates > salt wind
Ability to > sucker
Ability to > coppice

Silviculture Practice

Propagation by seed

After harvesting, seeds must be dried at room temperature for 2 days and then the moisture content should be reduced rapidly to 4 or 5% using dry air at 30°C. After removing the 'cotton fibre' (pappus), the seeds can be conserved for several years, without any appreciable decline, at a temperature below -18°C.Germination and development of the seedlings (usually sown in greenhouses), is rapid with adequate moisture and temperature up to 20°C. The seeds should not be covered with soil. During the initial growing period, control for the development of algae, fungus and snails must be carried out. More information can be found in Stanton and Villar (1996).Six to eight weeks after sowing, the seedlings can be transplanted to open-field nurseries.

Nursery practices

P. alba can be vegetatively propagated using stem cuttings 30-35 cm long (Dragomir and Duran, 1959). The optimal density is one tree per square metre. Nurseries are established in early spring, after the soil has been ploughed and disc harrowed. Phosphorus and potassium nutrients should be applied before soil preparation, while nitrogen can be scattered twice during the growing season - once after sprouting and a second time one month later. Poplars do not tolerate weed competition. It is therefore important to control weeds by chemical and/or mechanical means during the first months after establishment and at the beginning of the second growing season. In summer, irrigation may be necessary, especially in dry regions (Varfolomeev, 1984), and insect and pest control undertaken. After the first year the basal portion of the tree can be pruned during the dormant season (FAO, 1980; Frison, 1996).When the trees have an average height of 3 to 7 m (this can be obtained by growing the trees in nurseries for 1 or 2 years), they can then be used to establish stands.

Stand establishment

In countries where the species is cultivated P. alba is planted in soil which is not suitable for other poplar species (such as P. canadensis): for example, where the water table is inaccessible or the soil is poor or saline.The density of the trees depends on the specific wood product to be obtained. About 10,000 trees per hectare for biomass for energy (Facciotto and Schenone, 1998), 400-1000 trees per hectare for pulpwood and sawlogs. P. alba can tolerate a higher density than other poplar species. This higher density forces the tree to grow in height with fewer and smaller branches. During the middle rotation period, thinning is necessary. A square-shaped plantation is preferable.The soil must be prepared by deep ploughing followed by one or two harrowings. Deep ploughing provides a well-aerated layer of soil that promotes rapid root development of the cuttings or saplings.Plantations can be established during the dormant season, excluding very cold periods. 1- or 2-year-old saplings produced in nurseries, or 40-50 cm long cuttings, can be used. Saplings which are completely pruned, with or without roots, are inserted into holes 50-150 cm deep (according to the height of saplings) and 15-40 cm in diameter. Weed control is also very important in stands, especially during the years following establishment. This should be done by disc or rotary tiller and rarely by chemicals (Anselmi, 1981).Fertilizer application is necessary only in nutrient-deficient soils. Phosphorus and potassium fertilizers should be distributed before soil preparation; nitrogen can be distributed during the years following establishment and after sprouting.Pruning is essential to avoid stem forking. During the years immediately after establishment, double tops should be removed and subsequently the side branches. In order to obtain valuable logs for industrial purposes, pruning to a height of 5-7 m, and thinning if the plantation is too dense, should be carried out (Facciotto, 1999).

Silviculture Practice

Seed storage > orthodox
Vegetative propagation by > cuttings
Vegetative propagation by > sets
Stand establishment using > planting stock

Management

The rotation of P. alba is 18-25 years with a final density of 300-400 trees per hectare. The production is 10-15 cubic metres/ha/year; in optimal sites it can reach 18-22 cubic metres/ha/year (Gambi, 1979).

Genetic Resources and Breeding

P. alba has some desirable characteristics, such as tolerance to drought, salt and borers, and easy vegetative propagation. These justify its introduction in several breeding programmes, particularly in Mediterranean regions, and Western and Central Asia. Studies on genetic variation between and within natural populations of P. alba were carried out by the University of Tuscia (Viterbo, Italy), using RFLP markers: populations were well differentiated according to their geographic provenance (Pagnotta et al., 1998). Collection and selection of natural clones has been carried out in Spain (Alba, 1992) and in Hungary (Toth, 1996). Interesting clones of vars. hickeliana, subintegerrima and microphylla were selected in Morocco for tolerance to drought. A fastigiate and frost resistant cultivar has been obtained in Russia (Sekawin, 1975).The cvs. 'Kabudeh Schirazih'' and 'Kabudeh Bumi' are cultivated in Iran, the cv. 'Ankara AT' in Turkey and the cv. 'Villafranca' in Italy and Hungary. P. alba var. pyramidalis 'Bolleana' has been cultivated in Western Europe and in Argentina (Jobling, 1990).P. alba can be hybridized with all the species of the section Populus, sometimes spontaneously: grey poplar, P. canescens, is a natural hybrid of P. alba and P. tremula, and occurs where the range of the two species overlaps. Hybridization with species of other sections of Populus is also possible (Sekawin, 1975).

Disadvantages

The capacity of P. alba to grow in a wide range of soils and to produce a large quantity of seeds and root suckers allows it to compete with many native tree and shrub species in sunny areas (forest edge and abandoned fields). Outside of its natural range it interferes with revegetation of these areas. More information can be found in Remaley and Swearingen (1998).The cultivation of pistillate clones that produce large quantities of fruit pappus can be a nuisance for people who live near plantations. Furthermore, it can be dangerous as it is easily inflammable.The pollen of male clones can provoke an allergy.

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  • Assessing the Global Pest Risk of Aeolesthes sarta with Regards to the Host Specie Populus alba under Climate Change Scenarios, Forests, 10.3390/f14061260, 14, 6, (1260), (2023).

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