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Balsam poplar tree appearance wood uses and lumber

Balsam poplar trees are common throughout North America. Native Americans used the balsam tree for its medicinal properties. It is related to the cottonwood tree and has visual similarities. The scientific name of the balsam tree is populus balsamifera and is part of the salicaeae family. This poplar tree is fast growing and prefers open areas like meadows and does well in city parks.

balsam poplar trees

Balsam poplar tree, leaf and flower description

balsam poplar leaves and barkThe balsam poplar tree can grow to heights up to 100 feet or 30 meters. The tree is classed deciduous and won't have leaves from late autumn till early spring.

Balsam poplar leaves are arranged alternate and ovate shaped with fine-toothed edges and pointy tips. They can reach lengths up to 6 inches or 15 cm. The leaves are shiny dark green on the sun side and pale green on the other side.

In autumn the leaves turn dark yellow and fall too the ground. Catkins are the flowers, and in a later stage the seeds of the balsam poplar tree.


Balsam poplar tree bark and trunk

Young balsam poplar trees have smooth pale grey to brown bark. When the tree gets older the bark gets darker and rough furrowed. The trunk of old balsam poplar trees often rots from inside out. This is the main reason most trees don't get very old. The trunk of older trees can have a diameter up to 6 feet or 2 meters.


Balsam poplar tree wood properties and durability

Fresh heart and sapwood of the balsam poplar tree is pale yellow brown colored. Exposure to sunlight will darken both wood types. The wood has a fine but wooly texture, low strength and shock resistance properties and low steam bending qualities. The average dried weight of the wood at a moisture content of 12% is 370 kg per cubic meter. The durability of balsam poplar wood is classed as V low durability.


Balsam poplar wood working tips and uses

balsam poplar wood usesBalsam poplar wood is soft and easy to work with by hand or machine. Fresh lumber shrinks but after drying remains stable. Due to this shrinkage nails and screws should be used with caution because they often get loose.

Dry balsam poplar lumber nails, screws, glues, and works well both by hand or machine. The wood is used in a wide range of products like

  • firewood
  • veneer
  • turned articles
  • plywood 
  • pulp for the paper industry
  • indoor furniture
  • and more!

More balsam poplar tree pictures!