Populus nigra 'Italica' POP-yoo-lus NYE-gruh
Common name: Lombardy poplar
USDA hardiness zones: 3 through 9
Habit: Often planted for its fast growth or as a windbreak, it forms a slender column of many short, upward-pointing branches and can reach 40 to 60 feet in height with a spread of only 10 to 12 feet. Canker disease almost always infects the tree by the time the tree is 10 to 15 years old so trees are rarely seen larger than about 30 feet tall by five feet wide. Triangular to diamond-shaped, 2 to 3.5-inch-long by 1.5 to 3-inch-wide deciduous leaves are bright green on both sides, turning a so-so yellow in fall before dropping. Small, inconspicuous flowers appear in spring. Bark is grey/green on young trees and new growth, but becomes dark grey, thickened, and furrowed on older, larger trunks.
Culture: If planted, Lombardy poplar needs full sun on well drained, acid or alkaline soil. It tolerates wet soil. Multiple suckers often appear at the base of trees and occasionally on roots far from the tree, and roots are invasive. The trees are very susceptible to stem canker disease that usually limits their life to only 10 or 15-years. Propagation is by cuttings since it is a male clone.
Problems: Susceptible to breakage. Stem canker disease is so devastating that this tree is usually not included on anyone’s recommended tree list, with the exception of reclamation sites.