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Black Poplar


Specimen number five is Black Poplar seed
Black Poplar Seed cropped

12 Comments leave one →
  1. ANSHUMAN MAZUMDAR permalink
    03/07/2009 8:59 am


  2. Leander permalink
    03/07/2009 9:56 am

    Black Poplar trees are either male or female. The female trees produce fluffy cotton seeds in vast amounts. This has made them unpopular street trees. They are not planted and as a result poplars very rarely reproduce naturally and have become very rare. They are particularly under threat in Manchester. Manchester is famous for its poplars so much so that the black poplar has been called the ‘Manchester Poplar’.

    Most of the poplars in Manchester are male but there are still a few females causing a stir as this article in last Friday’s Manchester Evening News shows:

    There are about 650,000 pressed plants in Manchester Museum. Most are between 100 and 200 years old. Each has a label giving the name of the spcies, where it was collected, when it was collected and who collected it. This information tells us what plants were growing where and when in the past. We can use this information to find out how much the landscape has changed and we can work out which species are declining and which are increasing. Our Black Poplar specimens tell us where these trees, particularly females, were growing in the past. Are they still there now?

    Leander Wolstenholme
    Curator of Botany
    The Manchester Museum

  3. Bodger permalink
    03/07/2009 12:00 pm

    Tell you what. Don’t destroy it. Chuck them out of the window (hope you have one that opens or yesterday must have been hell).

    See if the wind carries them away to create new life.

    Go on. I dare you.

  4. Charles Watkins permalink
    03/07/2009 2:47 pm

    Black poplars are part of Manchester’s cultural heritage. Almost all existing trees in Britain are derived from cuttings. Their history is intimately connected with agriculture and industry; their future is assured through conservation management. The seeds should be retained to help explain the tree’s complex history.

  5. 03/07/2009 8:49 pm

    Looks like great tinder Ansuman. You could strike a spark into those seeds, light a little fire and stay alive for a little longer, a few minutes at least. Minutes, hours, decades, millennia – who’s counting?

  6. Cosi (sceptical) permalink
    03/07/2009 9:42 pm

    bodger- yes, throwing it to the wind is a good idea, let nature take care of it. though it is doubtful that anything would grow from it.
    leander – would it stand a chance of propagating?
    if so, i’d be happy to give it a try (well, since my thumbs are black, i’d ask my green-fingered husband to do it, but that’s mere detail…)
    unless someone else REALLY wants it.
    i can see the case for getting rid of these kinds of samples, as long as the museum has a record of all the pertinent information.
    yet i also think it impoverishes future researchers…..
    well, hermit, i hope you have settled in nicely – almost the first week
    thank you for giving me food for thought 🙂

    • Leander permalink
      03/07/2009 10:57 pm

      Hi Cosi,

      I don’t think the seeds would germinate if thrown out of the window as they’re about 120 years old.

  7. Ged M. Collins permalink
    04/07/2009 2:56 am

    The Manchester Poplar (Populus nigra var betulifolia) , is one of only two trees which is named after a City, the other is the London Plane(Platanus x hispanica ). Both these were named, thus, as they were two of the few trees, which were able to survive in the most polluted conditions, found in the two greatest cities of the Industrial age.

    The London Plane copes with the pollution by Ecdysis, sloughing its bark, shedding the polluted bark, leaving younger fresher bark beneath, so it may breathe, for all to see, and admire.

    The Manchester Poplar, was not created with such a mechanism, in its arsenal to fight pollution.It stands defiant, almost Churchillian, the bark getting blacker and blacker (hence its name “Black Poplar”)and stoically awaits autumn to shed its leaves like any good deciduous tree, to relieve itself of some of that soot and grime.

    But, trees are identified in stages; as you walk up, noticing, its shape, whether its deciduous or evergreen, the bark, then the formation of the bole, multistemmed or not… then the leaves, their shape, are they palmate, pinnate,are they opposite, alternate, then closer still the flowers… unless its Magnolia spp, Davidia spp Liriodendron spp because if they are in flower they will have been identified a long way off.

    But of all trees, Manchester Poplar, Populus nigra var betulifolia, you are easily identified, even though you are rarely burgeoned in distinctive seeds and your foliage is so birch like (betulifolia), however we immediately recognise your rounded crown and graceful lean. Silently getting on with life and a real jewel of our urban treescape.

    Long may you live, though you cause me problems, as you may blow over during the gales…… Whereas your cousin, that pencil thin Lombardy Poplar, Populus nigra var ‘Italica’,bending like a fishermans rod under the force of shrieking gales, with a hold on God’s earth, like no other. What another wonder !!!

    So those who built the Pyramids, Sears Tower, Great Wall of China,ETC compare your works against just one of these chance(?)structures. Which stand, 100 mph gales, with its crown in full leaf acting like, an open Parachute, 22 metres in width or 60 – 70 feet, as does the Manchester Poplar (Populus nigra). Does your work Compare in accuracy. In consistency. In strength. With its ability of sustainability. And so on, and so on, and so on…. . Do you now consider yourself to have created a Wonder of the World .
    Gaze on this Chance(?)structure and wind your scrawney conceited,neck in and weep. ADGM


    “A Tree is not just for Life, it is for Generations”© GMC1974

    Thought of in 1974, whilst I was working as a teenage Arborist on the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry’s, Drumlanrigg Castle, Carronbridge. Please use the quote, but please, remember to say that it was written by a man who is indebted, in being given, a lifelong interest in Arboriculture.


    Ged M. Collins



    • 04/07/2009 10:00 am

      Dear Mr. Ged M. Collins, Arborist,

      Your paean is the most moving tribute I have heard so far. You sound like you really care. I would feel confident in relinquishing these seeds into your custody.
      Even you may not be able to nurture them back to life seeing as they are 120 years old, but who knows? Perhaps you will be able to learn something new by studying them. At least I feel sure you will love them.
      You may of course decide that this museum is the best place to keep them, where you will be able to visit them as often as you like, and others also will have access to them – some of whom may have only just become interested, others who may be even more knowledgeable than you. In that case I will make sure that your bequest is recognized in a new label.

      On the other hand, you’re right Martin, it does look like good tinder…

      As I have said before this should be a transparent democratic process. I want to reach a consensus. So please, speak up, whatever your opinion.

      (None of my windows open, so that’s not an option.)

  8. Ged M. Collins permalink
    04/07/2009 11:14 am

    Dear Hermit,
    Thank you ….for your remarks, they are greatly appreciated, and the trust you have in me. But, if only, teachers could teach and inspire, inspire to wonder, inspire to ask, inspire to probe, come and visit those seeds at the museum and inspire some more ….


    Ged M. Collins
    GlobalTreeVision ©

  9. Leander permalink
    07/10/2009 12:04 pm

    The Collections Development Panel, along with the director and the artist, discussed the black poplar specimen at a meeting on 3rd September

    The blog responses and discussions were summarised as:
    “It had been suggested that they be scattered to the wind, although they are unlikely to germinate. It was pointed out that discussion around these seeds started in the summer when there was a lot of ‘f’luff’ flying around. There was research potential with these specimens.”

    The group decided to retain the specimen.

  10. danny flicker permalink
    21/12/2012 6:26 pm


    Mr Collins,

    “A Tree is not just for Life, it is for Generations”

    A bit has changed has it not :p

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