01 July 2011

Useful Trees & Shrubs of the North Woods (A Five Part Series) Black Poplar

Black Poplar

Populus nigra (Willow Family)

Common names

Balsam Poplar, Black Cottonwood

A tree that may reach 100 feet in height; sometimes the trunk is 6 feet in diameter. The broad, pointed leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide; they are rounded or slightly heart-shaped at the base, finely toothed, shiny dark green above, pale green often with rusty brown patches below. The buds and twigs are brownish red, and the large buds are very resinous and fragrant.

Some identifying images:

Mors Kochanski talks about this tree in his book Bushcraft, Outdoor skills and Wilderness Survival, page 236 of my edition.  Of specific interest to me is the use of the cotton-like material that he calls Black Poplar Fluff, when picked of the pods you end up with a nice absorbent cotton like pad. Add the resin from the Balsam Fir from the blisters and you have a dressing for wounds and burns.

You can harvest the stuff from low hanging branches as well as the ground.

Kochanski goes on to say that the fluff was added to Buffalo berry juice and beaten into a confection known as Indian ice cream.

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