Herb: White Poplar

Latin name: Populus alba

Family: Salicaceae (Willow Family)

Medicinal use of White Poplar:

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. The leaves are used in the treatment of caries of teeth and bones. The twigs are depurative.

Description of the plant:


20 m
(66 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Woods and watersides.

Edible parts of White Poplar:

Leaves - rich in Vitamin C. Inner bark - dried, ground into a powder and added to flour for making bread. A famine food, it is only used when all else fails.

Other uses of the herb:

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 fairly wind resistant tree, it can be grown as part of a shelterbelt planting. A yellow dye is obtained from the bark. Wood - rather woolly in texture, without smell or taste, of low flammability, not durable, very resistant to abrasion, very light, soft, elastic. It is used for less good quality purposes such as making matches, packing materials etc.

Propagation of White Poplar:

Seed - must be sown as soon as it is ripe in spring. Poplar seed has an extremely short period of viability and needs to be sown within a few days of ripening. Surface sow or just lightly cover the seed in trays in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame. If sufficient growth is made, it might be possible to plant them out in late summer into their permanent positions, otherwise keep them in the cold frame until the following late spring and then plant them out. This species does not often produce viable seed in Britain. Most poplar species hybridize freely with each other, so the seed may not come true unless it is collected from the wild in areas with no other poplar species growing. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, 20 - 40cm long, November/December in a sheltered outdoor bed or direct into their permanent positions. Very easy. Suckers in early spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Woods and watersides.

Known hazards of Populus alba:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.