[ ECOLOGICAL ETYMOLOGIST ]
I noticed in a recent issue
that a writer referred to a tree
as a “popple.” I am confused –
is this referring to yellow
poplar? I looked it up and
do not recall ever seeing the
yellow poplar tree in all my
travels in the Maine woods.
Is this tree also the quaking
aspen, or are they different?
It doesn’t take much research to see why
this one’s confusing. Popple usually refers
to aspen (both trembling and big tooth),
but it sometimes refers to balsam poplar
or eastern cottonwood – both members
of the genus Populus. Occasionally, people
call tulip poplar popple, but this is far less
common and some would say downright
incorrect, as it’s a Liriodendron. So how
did the name come to be?
A little research on Populus will tell you
that it’s the Latin word for popular or common, but pōpulus was an entirely different
word that meant, simply, a poplar tree.
A variation on the same word existed in
early Germanic languages, so it must have
come from some ancient Indo-European
word lost to history. In any case, it first
shows up in written English in 1382, when
John Wyclif used both popil (which is
Germanic) and poplere (Latin).
How did popple arise as a regional name
for quaking aspen? I can’t say for sure. But
it seems to be most common in areas
that were heavily settled by the Swedish,
who worked in the
Clockwise from top left: Visiting St. Francis Xavier students learn real-world lessons about forest management and
stewardship. A drone provided this aerial view of a partially completed patch cut. Loggers Grahm Leitner and Sam
Hughes discuss their harvesting equipment during a gathering of Vermont county foresters held at the Eustis property.
In 2011, we did some focused wildlife improvements – we created two permanent, half-acre,
early-successional areas surrounding a large
grass field and willow/alder wetlands and restored
an adjacent quarter-acre pond. A variety of soft
mast shrubs like American highbush cranberry
were planted around the pond. This area is now a
wildlife “hot spot” with food, cover, and water.
The two primary markets of my sawlogs
have been Rutland Plywood (prior to the fire at
their plant) and Manchester Lumber (in Johnson,
Vermont). In addition to firewood and pulp, a
fourth forest product, birch bark, was peeled
off to-be-cut paper birch by Long View Forest
Management prior to each harvest.
Part of the enjoyment I get from the land
comes from helping to educate others: 2015
marked the tenth year I’ve brought the seventh
This series is sponsored by the Stifler Family Foundation, in support of forestry practices that promote
healthy and sustainable forests and wildlife habitat.
grade class from St. Francis Xavier School in
Winooski to our property for an all-day field trip
and lessons about stewardship, forestry, wildlife,
and landscape changes over time. It is one of my
favorite days each year. It is amazing to see the
kids’ eyes opened to the forest around them. So
many people walk through the woods but never
“see” all that is around them. Once you know
where to look, you realize how many things are
out there to observe. We hope to spark a lifelong
interest in forests so the kids go on to hunt, hike,
and otherwise enjoy Vermont’s forests. With luck,
they will appreciate them more, will advocate
for them, and hopefully some will pursue one of
the many careers available working with forests.
Some may eventually become stewards of their
own working forests.