Lombardy Poplar

Latin Name: Populus nigra

Adult trees, Bundanon, NSW Origin: Native to Italy

Family: Salicaceae

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Moist ground in woods and by streams.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics:Lombardy poplar is an upright form ofPopulus nigra growing to 25 m in height. It has triangular-shaped dark green leaves which turn a brilliant yellow in late autumn.
Flowers: The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Wind. The plant not is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife.

Dispersal: They do not produce seed but reproduce by suckers which can form dense copses.

Edible Uses

Inner bark – dried, ground then added to flour and used for making bread etc. A famine food, used when all else fails.

Medicinal Uses

Female flowers by .Bambo.Alterative; Anodyne; Antiinflammatory; Astringent; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Expectorant; Febrifuge; Salve; Stimulant; Tonic; Vulnerary. The leaf buds are covered with a resinous sap that has a strong turpentine odour and a bitter taste. They also contain salicin, a glycoside that probably decomposes into salicylic acid (aspirin) in the body. The buds are antiscorbutic, antiseptic, balsamic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, salve, stimulant, tonic and vulnerary. They are taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections, stomach and kidney disorders. They should not be prescribed to patients who are sensitive to aspirin. Externally, the buds are used to treat colds, sinusitis, arthritis, rheumatism, muscular pain and dry skin conditions. They can be put in hot water and used as an inhalant to relieve congested nasal passages. The buds are harvested in the spring before they open and are dried for later use. The stem bark is anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic and tonic. The bark contains salicylates, from which the proprietary medicine aspirin is derived. It is used internally in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, lower back pains, urinary complaints, digestive and liver disorders, debility, anorexia, also to reduce fevers and relieve the pain of menstrual cramps. Externally, the bark is used to treat chilblains, haemorrhoids, infected wounds and sprains. The bark is harvested from side branches or coppiced trees and dried for later use.

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Other Uses

Cork; Rooting hormone; Shelterbelt; Wood. An extract of the shoots can be used as a rooting hormone for all types of cuttings. It is extracted by soaking the chopped up shoots in cold water for a day. A fast growing tree, it is often used to provide a quick screen or windbreak. The cultivar ‘Italica’ is commonly used for this purpose though it is not a very suitable choice because it has fragile branches and is prone to basal rots which can cause sudden collapse. The cultivar ‘Plantierensis’ is much more suitable. A resin obtained from the buds is made into a salve and used in home remedies. The bark is used as a cork substitute for floats etc. Wood – very soft, very light, rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, easy to work, very resistant to abrasion. Used for lower quality purposes.

Notes: Poplars have separate male and female trees and the ones first introduced to the ACT were male.
Lombardy poplar has been widely planted as an ornamental tree in moist sites and beside streams in the ACT. The most significant planting of four trees is in the courtyards of the Senate and the House of Representatives in Old Parliament House. The trees were planted in 1926 but replaced with young trees of the same stock in the late 1900s when the original trees became unsafe.
Lombardy poplar is a weed in South Africa and has formed dense suckering stands in wetlands near Perth. It is one of 49 non-native naturalised species in the Australian flora having a direct impact on rare and threatened species.

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