Common name: Wilson's poplar
Populus wilsonii, native to Central and West China, was discovered and introduced by Wilson in 1907. This deciduous medium-sized tree is rare in cultivation. It is difficult to raise from cuttings and has to be propagated by grafting. Our tree came from Hillier Nursery in England.
The species is dioecious with male catkins up to 7 cm/3 in long and female (fruiting) catkins up to 15 cm/6 in. The bark is dark greyish-brown, slightly furrowed and exfoliating.
VanDusen’s one and only Populus wilsonii, a female, was planted in 1981 in bed 98. A handsome tree but not the least bit a neat or tidy one. Everything seems to fly off this tree throughout the seasons. Bits of exfoliating bark in winter. Female catkins flowering in May and fruiting in June. Their cottony down (fluff) from the ripened catkins lands on every plant around. Then the big and beautiful heart-shaped leaves are all over the ground in fall.
Poplars are short-lived trees. They grow rapidly and reach large dimensions within a relatively short time. Not a tree for a confined space. They have an extremely wide-spreading root system. Its radius can easily exceed the height of the tree. And they are key in water conservation. What could be more important than that?
The pictures were taken in bed 98 in the Sino-Himalayan Garden at VanDusen.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones, except for the tallest tree photo courtesy of Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons