Also called ‘Italian Poplar’, it is a cultivar of the Black Poplar (Populus nigra), and is a real skyscraper such is its height (up to 38m (125 ft) tall), and it has a shapely ornamental form of Italian origin. It is a fast-growing, tall and slim deciduous tree, a living column of tight vertical branches forming a pointed crown which make the tree most distinctive and instantly recognisable against the skyline.
The bark is brown and fissured, and heavily burred with age, often forming a heavy buttress with dense foliage. The leaves are 5-10cm long, triangular or diamond-shaped, finely toothed, glossy green and massed on the boughs. In autumn they turn a blazing golden-yellow before falling. The stalks are pale yellow and flattened. This is a clone of the Black Poplar (Populus nigra), and most specimens are all males, so they do not reproduce, but can be spread by suckers or by cuttings. The red male catkins appear in March before the leaves open.
Often seen planted in rows along avenues or streets, or to form screens or windbreaks in parks and playing fields, and as individual ornamentals in parks and gardens. It is also a familiar sight in the countryside. Because of its sheer height and columnar form, it can be susceptible to toppling in high winds. A native from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, and introduced into Britain in 1758 by Lord Rochford, who planted it in St Osyth’s Priory in Essex. Abundant in warmer areas, and sometimes naturalised by suckers. It can live for up to 150 years.