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Silver-barked tree [Archive] - Arbor Day Forum


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02-01-2005, 03:55 PM
I'm trying to identify a tree growing in my yard (Indiana - Zone 6). The leaves are very maple-ish looking and medium-to-dark green. The backside of the leaves are a whitish-light gray. The trunk of the tree is a very deep, dark silver and gets whiter-gray the higher up you look as the limbs get smaller. I've seen a few other specimens in the area and they are very large trees with many branches. Anyone have any idea what this tree could be from this description? I thought it might be a poplar, but the only poplar I've seen that resembles this tree has multi-trunks, but this particular one doesn't - unless it was properly pruned all these years to grow as one trunk.

02-01-2005, 09:49 PM
A few possibilities based on that description....

-Silver or red maple (if the leaves are opposite, i.e. they sprout from the twig in pairs, one on either side of the twig)

-Sycamore or London planetree, if the bark flakes off in distinctive patches, leaving it mottled, dark on the bottom and white above

-White poplar (Populus alba). You may have seen a multi-trunked specimen of this species, but that's not necessarily a species trait; it depends on the history of the individual tree. This often grows with a single trunk.

We could probably make an ID even if you could just post pictures of the bark and close-ups of a twig with some live buds (given the time of year).

02-03-2005, 10:50 AM
If you post some leaf and fruit/flowers photos on this forum I will attempt to identify it for you. You could also mail them to

02-03-2005, 04:43 PM
OK... I'll try to get a close up picture of the bark and one of the branches and get it posted somewhere on the web or the email address, but there is no leaves to be found on it this time of year! :wink:

02-03-2005, 08:18 PM
If possible, try to get a pretty close shot of the very end of the twig, with the buds visible. Often that's enough to make an ID at least to genus. Something like this hedge maple twig.

02-10-2005, 03:25 PM
I'm hoping to get a close-up picture of this tree posted by late Monday (Feb 14th) and I might start a new thread here as well. I did notice the buds are growing alternately on both sides of the branches and they are a brownish-orange color. If I remember correctly, the leaves are very dark-green and very white on the underside. The leaves are shaped like a mitten with a thumb on either side. It is a very fast growing tree - I have never seen a tree grow so fast. The sapling started growing in my yard (I transplanted it to a better location) and has reached 6 feet tall in two years!! On the few specimens I've seen, they have a lot of bending and twisting branches, but mine doesn't. The bark does not peel - it is a medium-dark silver and the newest branches are very white and mature into a dark silver. If it is indeed a silver maple, it is not the ordinary kind of silver maple because I have two of those in my yard and they are nothing like this tree - the leaves aren't the same either. The popular silver maple tree leaves are very thin, these leaves are thicker and the top part feels a little rubbery. This tree is also very suseptible to some kind of catapillar worms eatings the leaves in late spring.

I have searched this entire county and have found only 4 specimens of this tree growing and no nursery in this county has any idea what tree this is. They think it could be a type of silver maple or poplar, but aren't sure. I've seen pictures of both these trees and they don't resemble this tree at all. I hope when I get a picture posted, someone will know. If not, come spring, I will post another picture with the leaves on it.

I hope I don't sound too obsessive or neurotic about this... haha... I just like to know the names of everything I have in my yard and this is the only one I'm stumped on.

02-10-2005, 07:28 PM
Ok, with that description you get another set of possibilities. The "mitten-shaped" variably-lobed leaves are a big tip. It could be sassafras or mulberry in your area, but the description of the bark is still throwing me off a bit.

Some pics should settle things.

02-11-2005, 08:37 AM
Check if the leaves are aromatic - if it's sassafrass, they'll have a strong scent (of course, this requires waiting for leaves...)

Some Japanese beetles gave some of my sassafrass a hard time, skelotonizing the leaves on a number of saplings.

02-11-2005, 10:38 AM
OK. I got 4 pictures posted on a web page for everyone to see.

I took 3 pictures of the tree yesterday, of course it's winter and no leaves, but I think I got decent shots of the trunk and buds on the limbs. They are very large pictures because I wanted to get as much detail as possible.

The 4th picture that has leaves on it, I found this picture in my photo album. Sorry that the tree seems lost in the midst of all the clover and grass, but I think you can see the leaves if you look closely. If you save the picture to your hard drive and then blow it up, it blows up relatively well and you can see the leaves are kind of mitten-shaped with two thumbs. You can also see on the top of the tree that the wind was blowing, showing the silvery color underneath the leaves. This is the younger tree of the two that I have. I put those rubber tree mats around them because this species wants so badly to produce multiple trunk shoots coming out of the ground. The fully grown species I've seen in town is 30 to 40' high.

All four pictures start at the top of the web page, so you'll have to scroll a lot toward the right to see all 4 of them. The first 2 pictures are huge, so you have to scroll down to see the whole picture.

Well, hopefully someone can identify this tree for me. I will be forever grateful....

02-11-2005, 12:48 PM
Those are good pics for ID, and although I can't make out the leaf shape too well on that one summer pic, I'm going back to my original ID of white poplar, Populus alba. Twigs and buds are right, as is the growth form and the leaf shape you described.

Typical leaf shape, although there is some variability:

Large white poplars in Germany:

02-11-2005, 01:02 PM
Well, that pic you posted of the leaves looks like what I remember, so perhaps it is a white poplar. Thank you! As I have read the descriptions of white poplar on the web, this seems to be true. If anyone else agrees or even disagrees, let me know regardless!! And, thanks again saccharum!!