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Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra Italica) Profile

Written by Iris

Aug 19 2021

Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra Italica) Profile
Often planted for its rapid growth and usefulness as a short-lived screen or windbreak, Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') consist of many short, upturned branches forming a slender column that can reach a height of 40 to 60 feet. The leaves are bright green, turn to a blazing golden yellow in autumn, and then fall. Small, inconspicuous flowers appear in spring.

Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') Picture

 Lombardy

Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') Info

Botanical Name Populus nigra 'Italica'
Common Name The cultivar is called "Lombardy poplar," the species plant "black poplar"
Plant Type Broadleaf, deciduous tree
Mature Size 40 to 50 ft. tall and 10 to 15 ft. wide for the 'Italica' cultivar; species plant can become much bigger
Sun Exposure Full 
Soil Type Sandy to loamy soil
Soil pH Neutral 
Bloom Time Spring
 

Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') History

On October 14, 1792, Washington instructed his farm manager, Anthony Whitting, to have the gardeners "plant cuttings of the Weeping Willow, yellow willow, or Lombardy Poplar" to create living fences. The shrinking availabiliy of timber with which to make rail fences caused him to turn to live hedges, which could be started with fast-growing Lombardy poplar and willows, while slower growing cedars and locusts would eventually take over. Unfortunately, and with great disappointment, he never succeeded due to various setbacks.
Lombardy poplars

Ecological Habits of Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica')

Be cautious before planting a young, small Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') sapling immediately adjacent to any buildings, foundations, or infrastructure. Fast-growing trees above ground are often fast-growing below, too. The root system of the Poplar Tree can be invasive and destructive if planted in close proximity to these types of materials. Simply plant your Poplar a safe distance away from the home and watch it grow.

Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') Distribution Area

‘Italica’, commonly known as Lombardy poplar or Italian poplar, is believed to have originated in Italy (Lombardy region on the banks of the Po River) in the late 1600s as a fastigiate mutation of a male black poplar (Populus nigra). Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') is primarily native to boggy lowland areas, river valleys, pond margins, forest margins, fields and roadsides in Europe, northwestern Africa and western Asia.
Lombardy poplars

How to Grow and Care for Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica')

How to Grow Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica')

  • With Cuttings
Poplar trees are planted as cuttings using 8 to 10 segments of one-year old stems. This process is called vegetative propagation and is one way to ensure continuity of the genetic makeup of desired clones. Producing your own cuttings is great way to save money and ensure that you have quality stock year after year. It does, however, require a fair amount of manual labor and storage space.
Poplar cuttings do best if taken from healthy trees, especially if taken in the early morning. Use a sharp, thin-bladed knife or sharpened pruning shears and remove all the leaves from the bottom half of a 6-inch stem. If the leaves on your cutting are large, cut them in half to reduce water loss during rooting. Place the cutting up to half its length in a medium made of half peat and half sand; water well and keep in a spot that receives indirect sunlight. Keep the soil moist but not saturated by occasionally misting the cutting. When it has rooted, transfer it into a larger container or into a separate bed with others as its chances of survival are improved if not immediately planted in its permanent location. Cuttings, also called whips, can be harvested in late fall and refrigerated until planting time. If using this method, be sure to soak the cutting for 24 hours before planting and keep the area weed-free during the first two years of growth as young poplars are easily overtaken by other vegetation.
Lombardy poplars

How to Care for Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica')

  • Light
Grow Lombardy poplar trees in full sun.
  • Soil
Lombardy poplars will do well in soil that is sandy, loamy, or very loamy. It should be well-drained.
  • Water
During the first year, make sure your tree gets water during extended dry spells, particularly in the summer months. Drooping leaves are a sign of both over or under watering, so ensure you water your Lombardy about once or twice weekly.
  • Temperature and Humidity
The Lombardy poplar can be grown in a wide variety of temperate climates, including those where the winter low temperature is far below zero. In hot and humid climates, this tree is even more susceptible to Cytospora canker.
  • Fertilizer
Fertilize conservatively. Organic fertilizer high in nitrogen works well. You can use a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 fertilizer formula. Avoid fertilizing the tree directly. Instead, broadcast the fertilizer around the drip line.
  • Pruning
This low maintenance tree can be pruned to maintain shape and dead or damaged branches can be removed to keep a clean and healthy look. Prune in the winter months during dormancy for best results.
Lombardy poplars

Uses of Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica')

Edible Uses

Inner bark - dried, ground then added to flour and used for making bread etc. A famine food, used when all else fails.

Medicinal Uses

The buds are antiscorbutic, antiseptic, balsamic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, salve, stimulant, tonic and vulnerary. They are taken internally in the treatment of bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections, stomach and kidney disorders. Externally, the buds are used to treat colds, sinusitis, arthritis, rheumatism, muscular pain and dry skin conditions. They can be put in hot water and used as an inhalant to relieve congested nasal passages.

landscape Uses

This tree is popular for lining roadways, used as garden borders or planted as a focal point in a larger landscape. Few trees offer a faster green screen. With a growth rate of about 6 feet per year you won't wait long for this tree to fill in where you need it. Although the Lombardy poplar is not an evergreen, the close, dense branches still offer coverage in winter. And the light penetration from the fallen leaves will actually help heat up your home in the cold of winter, saving you money on those heating bills.
Lombardy poplars

Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') Common Pests/Diseases

Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') is suseptible to a number of pests and diseases. Cankers are significant problems, especially in hot and humid climates. Cytospora canker attacks the upper branches of the tree and trunk and is often fatal. Additional potential disease problems include dieback, leaf spots, rusts and powdery mildew. Potential insect problems include aphids, borers, caterpillars and scale. Weak wood is easily damaged by wind. Shallow roots can lift sidewalks, make lawn mowing difficult, and damage drainage systems. Falling debris (leaves and twigs) requires frequent clean-up. Also avoid planting this tree in lawns or gardens.