Size: Up to 25m and lives up to 100 years
Leaves: Round with irregular teeth and flattened leaf stalks that tremble in the wind
Flowers: Male and female catkins appear on different trees in spring
Seeds: Once pollinated, female catkins ripen to release tiny, fluffy seeds in summer.
Aspen is Scotland’s only native poplar tree. It is known as quaking aspen and is a keystone species crucial in supporting hundreds of flies, moths, beetles, fungi, lichen and mosses.
When To See
Aspen is interesting all year round. It flowers in spring, but its best identifying feature, its trembling leaves, are best seen in summer. It most often turns bright yellow in the autumn and is identifiable even in winter by its dark brown, shiny twigs and its greyish bark covered in lenticels.
Aspen is distributed widely in the north and west of Scotland. It grows in scattered clumps (stands) often in a woodland with Ash, Oak and Birch. Aspen is hearty and can grow in damp, harsh soils including riverbanks or exposed upland areas up to 550m. It is a light loving tree and will usually be found on the edge of a woodland.
Aspen propagates through suckers (shown above), which establish as new trees close to the ‘parent’. These new trees (or ramets) are genetically identical to the ‘parent’ tree. As a result, Aspen often occurs as small groves of trees.
How To Identify
Check out our Guide to identifying Aspen
Or watch our ID video.
RiverLife’s Aspen Project
RiverLife teamed up with Eadha Trees to deliver the Aspen Project, with the overall aims of:
- Species Conservation
- Awareness Raising and Education
- Citizen Science
- Habitat creation and enhancement
The project highlights the link between healthy and diverse riparian habitat and healthy river channels and promotes stewardship of local river systems by facilitating planting on riverbanks local to the groups involved.
Between 2017 and 2019 our team and dedicated volunteers searched 59 different sites in a citizen science project to find and identify Aspen across West Lothian, Falkirk and Edinburgh regions. Forth Rivers Trust and Eadha Trees put on an Aspen Identification and Survey Technique workshop in 2018 to make sure volunteers were equipped with all the skills needed to conduct a field survey and record Aspen data.
You can watch the workshop video here:
The Trust and Eadha used the data collected to take cuttings of wild Scottish Aspen so that local schools and Scout groups can propagate and plant trees to improve the habitat along our riverbanks.
Aspen in the Classroom introduces pupils in late primary school to Aspen, its diverse animal habitat and ways in which trees stabilise riverbanks.
The program involves potting on and looking after native aspen clones before planting them by a nearby watercourse. In taking part, pupils will strengthen their connection with the local environment; learn about why trees are so important for rivers; and get their hands dirty through some practical conservation work. See more information in our Learning Page.
Tree planting events are ongoing as part of this project. If you are interested in learning more or participating, get in touch!
We are always looking for help to identify Aspen. If you have been out and about and spotted what you think are Aspen trees, use this link to our survey and fill in the information to let us know where these trees are! Alternatively you can use the QR Code below. Open up your camera app and point it at the code then click the link that pops up. It’s that simple!
You can also head over to our Forth Rivers Trust website where we have our Aspen e-module so that you can do some fun activities like our quiz and learn even more about Aspen!