Black Poplar

Populus nigra ssp. betulifolia

  1. Wildlife
  2. Trees and shrubs
  3. Black Poplar


The native Wild Black Poplar is a massive tree with a thick, fissured trunk that can be found in river valley floodplains, around gravel pits and along ditches. It is particularly prevalent in Shropshire, Cheshire, Somerset, the Vale of Aylesbury and East Anglia, but populations have declined massively over the years. Yet Black Poplars have formed an important part of our landscape and culture for centuries, from providing landmarks and focus for celebration, to inspiring the famous painter, Constable, and providing timber for floorboards.

How to identify

Wild Black Poplar can be distinguished from the various other varieties of poplar by its deeply fissured bark, the knobbly 'bosses' on its trunk and its spreading branches which often touch the ground, before sweeping upwards again in a mass of twigs. It has red catkins.

Where to find it

Found in England and Wales; widespread but uncommon. It may be found and is perhaps native to some parts of Ireland.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Wild Black Poplars have suffered severe declines and it is estimated that only 8,000 now exist in the UK, with only 400 being female. Their decline has been caused by a lack of suitable wetland habitat, the removal of trees because their seeds have been considered a nuisance, and the extensive planting of hybrids. Now, many of our Wild Black Poplars are getting old, without new generations to replace them. But The Wildlife Trusts are helping this species through veteran tree surveys, planting and sympathetic wetland management. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member.

Local information

The black poplar, now one of Britain’s rarest native trees, was once a common feature of Worcestershire along the River Severn and its tributaries. 

With many floodplain woodlands being converted to agricultural uses, the black poplar has significantly declined over the last few hundred years as a result of the lack of suitable habitat. They are also under threat as a result of low numbers of female trees. This means that very few seedlings are produced.

Today in Worcestershire most of the remaining black poplars can be seen in hedgerows, along ditches and on commons. Castlemorton Common is Worcestershire’s most notable site as it has over 80 black poplars. Worcestershire Wildlife Trust sites that contain black poplars include Feckenham Wylde Moor, Penorchard Meadows, Wilden Marsh and the South West Meadows.

Species information

Common name
Black Poplar
Latin name
Populus nigra ssp. betulifolia
Trees and shrubs
Height: 20-25m
Conservation status
Rare. Receives general protection in the UK under Section 13 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, which prohibits the unauthorised uprooting of any wild plant species.