Populus nigra 'Italica'
Common Name: black poplar
Type: Tree
Family: Salicaceae
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 40.00 to 50.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Red
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Street Tree
Flower: Showy

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 2-10 where it is best grown in rich, humusy, fertile, consistently moist but well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Generally intolerant of urban pollutants.

'Italica' is a male clone which must be propagated by cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Populus nigra, commonly called black popular, is a large deciduous tree with a wide rounded crown that typically matures to 60-100’ tall. It is primarily native to boggy lowland areas, river valleys, pond margins, and roadsides in Europe, northwestern Africa and western Asia. Dark gray bark on mature trees is knotted, deeply fissured, gnarled and burred. Alternate, simple, broadly triangular to diamond-shaped, deep green leaves (to 3” long) turn yellow in fall. Black poplar trees are dioecious (male and female flowers on separate trees). Drooping catkins appear in late winter to early spring (March-April) before the leaves develop. Male catkins (to 1-2” long) feature deep red anthers and female catkins (to 4-5” long) have 2 green stigmas per flower. Pollinated catkins on female trees bear abundant masses of cottony seeds by late summer. Some nurseries sell only male trees because many homeowners find the cottony seeds to be somewhat messy.

Genus name comes from the Latin name.

Specific epithet means black.

'Italica', commonly called Lombardy poplar or Italian poplar, is believed to have originated in Italy (Lombardy region) in the late 1600s as a mutant from a species plant. It is a narrow, columnar, fastigate male form with exceedingly upright branching (almost parallel to the trunk) and a shallow spreading root system. It typically grows to 40-50' (less frequently to 90') tall with a spread to only 15' wide. No fruit is produced. Gray-green bark matures over time to black with furrows. This is a short-lived tree whose popularity is significantly reduced by its susceptibility to significant disease and insect pests.

Problems

Suseptible to a number of pests and diseases. Cankers are significant problems, especially in hot and humid climates. Cytospora canker attacks the upper branches of the tree and trunk and is often fatal. Additional potential disease problems include dieback, leaf spots, rusts and powdery mildew. Potential insect problems include aphids, borers, caterpillars and scale. Weak wood is easily damaged by wind. Shallow roots can lift sidewalks, make lawn mowing difficult, and damage drainage systems. Falling debris (leaves and twigs) requires frequent clean-up. Also avoid planting this tree in lawns or gardens. In Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Michael Dirr sums up poplar pest problems by saying "if anyone plants poplars they deserve the disasters which automatically ensue."

Garden Uses

Not considered to be a good landscape tree. Best used for windbreaks or screens or along roads.