Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Populus Nigra Var. Italica

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Position: Flourishes in full sun.

Soil: Moist well drained soil.

Flowering period: Late winter to early spring.

Eventual Height: 30m

Eventual Spread: 5m

Hardiness: USDA Zone 4a-9b

Family: Salicaceae

Populus nigra var. italica Is a deciduous tree with a tall, narrowly columnar habit. It has dark bark and its foliage is triangular to ovate, tapered, glossy and dark green. The leaves are bronze when young, turning yellow in autumn. The species is dioecious where the catkins are red on the male plants and green on the female. However, variety italica is a male clone with crimson catkins.

Known as the true Lombardy poplar it was selected in Lombardy, northern Italy, in the 17th century for its fastigiate habit.

Populus is derived from its ancient Latin name, arbor-populi meaning ‘tree of the people’, with nigra meaning ‘black’ also from the Latin. italica translates as ‘from Italy’ in Latin.


Populus nigra italica (16/05/2011, Paris)

Populus nigra italica (16/05/2011, Paris)

The landscape architect may find this plant useful as a striking upright specimen tree. They also look impressive when planted in lines, where space permits, in parks or at the boundary to a site where they can perform the function of an effective wind break. Care should be taken when locating this tree, as they have been known to be blown over by high winds in exposed locations. The roots may also be damaging to buildings and destructive to drainage systems.

It will adapt to most soil types but will prefer moist calcareous, nutrient rich soils with an alkaline ph.

Ecologically P. nigra var. italica will provide cover and nesting sites for songbirds especially the English Sparrow.

The Royal Horticultural Society have given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Maintenance: Little to no care is required.

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