Do you really know trees by their names? Do you often look so closely at a tree that you are able to tell the difference between one tree and another?
Have you ever mistaken a tree for another? Have you called a tree by a different name but on getting closer, you realize it is an entirely different tree?
If your answers to these questions are positive, then you probably know a bit about the feeling of satisfaction that comes with knowing the difference between two trees.
Let’s look at this from the eyes of a tree. Let’s assume trees were humans and could feel the same emotions we all did. Let’s also assume that you were a tree.
Would you feel good being called another tree? Would you feel good being treated like a tree you are not, probably cared for like a different tree?
I guess you now have a glimpse of what it feels like to be either one of the two trees we will be discussing in this article- the poplar and birch trees.
Looking very similar in structure and leaves, poplar and birch trees are often mistaken to be the same.
This is probably because they grow in the same geographical region and are both perennial trees. It is also probably a result of ignorance on the part of the individuals who mistake these trees as one and the same.
Actually, poplar trees are perennials that shed their leaves annually as a survival adaptation to periods of harsh weather conditions.
Poplar trees can grow as high as fifty meters high, with tree trunks that can expand to about two meters in diameter.
Poplar trees are grown for multiple uses, some of which include: ornamental beautification, making of home furniture, skateboards, chopsticks, and Chinese wooden shoes.
It is also an important element in the generation of energy using biomass. Poplar is an artistic appeal to sculptors and woodcarvers who favor poplar wood in the making of beautiful artistry.
Poplar trees can be propagated both sexually and asexually, but are propagated more asexually.
This is because they can germinate from as little as a stem cutting left carelessly on the ground. So gardeners do not need to carry out special operations to propagate them. The greatest pests of poplar plants are termites.
On the other hand, birches are perennial hardwoods that shed their leaves at specific times of the year- an adaptive system to survive drought.
Birches are extremely hardwood with the ability to withstand heavy-duty loads. This characteristic of hardness in birches makes it impossible to be worked on by hand tools.
High-powered timber machines are the only equipment that can saw through the hard surfaces of birch trees.
Birch is useful in the making of hard plywoods that look light but can withstand heavy loads. Birch trees are also useful for making leather oils.
The inner bark of birches serves various purposes in food preparation. It can be dried and ground to make flour.
It can also be made into noodles with high nutritive values. The sap can be taken as a syrup or made into tea. It is also used to make antiseptics for simple injuries.
In papermaking, birch trees make fine-quality papers.
This article identifies the various characteristics of poplar trees as well as that of birches. It explains the properties to look out for in each of these trees to ascertain whether they are birches or poplars.
This article further outlines the differences between a poplar tree and a birch tree.
Identifying a Poplar Tree
A poplar tree can be identified by the following visible characteristics
- They shed their leaves in winter through spring, until the weather condition is favorable again for leaf growth.
- They are fast growers and can grow as tall as 165 feet in a short time.
- They grow well in temperate and hot regions. They can withstand direct sunlight and high temperatures.
- They usually thrive in wet soils. So you can usually find poplar trees growing next to a river or swamp as the case may be.
- Poplar trees have broad leaves. This is why they are classified as canopy trees. They are loved for their shades even more than their succulent seeds.
- The color of their barks is not wood brown like other trees. Their barks are either white or silver-grey in color.
- Their leaves have sharp edges and are usually maple-like in appearance
- The leaves vary in oval, triangular, or heart shapes
- Poplar trees are not hermaphroditic. This means that there is a male poplar plant as well as a female poplar plant that exists separately. Pollination is done through the movement of pollen grains from the anther to the stigma.
- Poplar plants produce flowers that bloom in spring just before the shedding leaves.
- Poplar trees produce seed-bearing fruits that can be used in propagating new poplar plants.
Identifying Birch Trees
Birch trees can be identified by the following characteristics:
- Birches shed their leaves to conserve water loss during dry seasons
- Birch trees do not grow so tall. Matured birches grow to a height not more than eighty feet.
- Like poplars, birches grow in soils with enough water. So you can also find birch trees growing along riverbanks and swamps.
- The bark of a matured birch tree is usually rough and patterned like horizontal ridges.
- The barks have colors that vary from white, silver, grey, and yellow.
- The leaves of the birch trees are serrated and have sharp edges just like the poplar tree leaves.
- The leaves of a birch tree are a mixture of different shades of green, with some looking like yellow. The entire leaves eventually turn yellow in autumn.
- Birch trees are hermaphrodites. In that, they possess both the male and female plant organs in one plant. So pollination occurs in a single plant.
- Birches produce flowers that grow erect.
- Birches produce a fruit named Samara.
How Do You Tell The Difference Between a Birch Tree and a Poplar Tree?
From the identifiable characteristics listed above for birches and poplar trees, it can be easily spotted that birches look like poplar trees and have almost similar characteristics.
Yet, there are certainly notable differences that can help you tell birch trees from poplar trees. These differences are categorized in the following factors listed below:
- Color of barks
- Structure of leaves
- Structure of flowers
- Location od growth
These factors and how they differ in birches and poplars are explained below.
Poplar trees are usually taller than birch trees, with a height difference of about sixty feet.
Poplar trees can easily grow up to a hundred feet tall before attaining full maturity, while a completely mature birch tree does not grow more than eighty feet in height.
So between these two trees, the taller is the poplar.
2. Color of Barks
The barks of poplar trees are usually smooth while they grow, and only get rough at full maturity with just a few rough edges and patterns.
This is not the same for birch trees. Birch trees usually have rough barks from infancy until maturity. These roughly patterned barks can be felt by rubbing your skin against a birch tree.
3. Structure of Leaves
Poplar trees differ significantly from birch trees in the structure of their leaves.
While the leaves of poplar trees can take an oval, triangular, or heart shape, birches usually have a consistent oval shape throughout all their leaves.
Poplars have just leaves that are green in color while birches have leaves that vary from green to yellow.
4. Structure of Flowers
Even though birches and poplars are flowering plants, they differ in the structure of their flowering organs.
Poplars have the male and female organs in separate flowers and therefore need the action of pollinators like wind and insects to help move pollen grains from anther to stigma.
This is unlike the birch trees that have both the male and female parts of the flower in one plant and can reproduce by their hermaphroditic natures.
5. Location of Growth
Unlike poplars that can grow in almost every region in the world, birch trees grow only in some parts of the world.
Birches are usually found in northern Canada and some other cold regions.
Do Poplar Trees Look Like Birch?
Yes, poplar trees look like birch trees. Their similarity can be spotted in the color of barks and the deciduousness of their nature.
They are so alike that one can be mistaken for another. However, careful observation reveals the differences between these two trees.
How that the barks of birches are rough and patterned while that of poplars are smooth and unpatterned. As well as the other above-listed differences.
What kind of Tree Looks Like a Birch Tree
Apart from poplar trees, the Aspen tree looks very much like birch trees.
Aspen trees grow in northern hemispheres where the weather is cooler. In the south, it prefers to grow on elevated surfaces like tops of mountains and hills.
The bark of an aspen tree has the ability to carry out photosynthesis. This means that the aspen tree can continue growing even after shedding its leaves.
The Aspen tree have similar leaf and bark structure as birches and can be mistaken to be birch trees even more than poplars.
How Do You Identify a Tree by Its Leaves?
To identify trees by their leaves, look out for the shape of the leaves, the color of the leaves, whether the leaves curl up or not, and, the edges and patterns on the leaves.
Different trees have these factors engendered in their leaf formation. Such that some trees have broad, green leaves while others have slender green leaves.
No two trees have the exact leaf characteristics. Paying attention to the leaf structures in trees is a great way of telling trees apart.
What is Special About Poplar Trees.
The following facts make poplar trees a special specie of deciduous trees:
- Poplar trees have different shapes of leaves on the same tree
- Unlike other trees, poplar trees have smooth barks
- The roots of poplar trees are turgid and grow extensively, up to 130 feet, stretching for water and nutrients.
- The wood gotten from poplar trees are lightweight yet hard. They used to feature greatly as shields in ancient battles.
- Poplar Trees are an important biofuel. It is usually converted by biomass technology to produce biofuels.
What Is Another Name for Poplar Trees
Poplar is a word that originates from the Roman Latin language “Populus”.
The name is given because, in ancient Rome, public meetings used to be held under the shade of the poplar trees.
In a nutshell, we have stated succinctly in this article the various striking features of birches as well as those of poplars.
Even though they look alike, they are not the same trees and should not be mistaken as such.
We hope the next time you see a tree that looks like a birch tree, you can significantly tell whether it is a birch tree or a poplar.