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Trees of Yosemite (1932, 1948) by Mary Curry Tresidder


[Willow Family]

Quaking Aspen

Populus tremuloides Mich.

Quaking Aspen Leaves. About 1/2 Natural Size
Quaking Aspen Leaves
About 1/2 Natural Size
Young Quaking Aspen Trees
Young Quaking Aspen Trees

The aspen is the most widely distributed of our North American trees and one of the most delightful. At our latitude it does not descend the mountains much below 4,500 feet, though one stray grove is to be found on the Valley floor (4,000 feet), on the south side of the Merced River near Cathedral Spires.

It is a slender, graceful tree, twenty-five to seventy-five feet in height and from eight to eighteen inches in diameter. The trunk is silvery in tone, varying from greenish-white in young trees to a blackish-gray in old trees. Bears often leave the marks of their claws plainly in the parchment bark of the aspen—whether as a measuring post of their own height or in challenge to an invader is matter of surmise.

The leaves are alternate on the branches, and leave a scar-like knob when they fall. They are yellowish-green above, paler beneath, round-ovate in shape, and finely toothed along the margin. They are smaller than the leaves of the cottonwood, and do not taper gradually to a point. The petiole, or leaf-stem, is flattened in such a way that the leaf quivers at the least breath of air.

In autumn they are among the chief glories of our mountains. At such altitudes as that of Little Yosemite, the aspen leaves turn pure gold in the sunlight; higher, they burn with an orange and scarlet flame, making a pattern of Oriental splendor on many a slope.

Aspens are an indication of underground water; they thrive near lakes and where rocky hillsides verge on swampy river bottoms. The new trail to Merced Lake gives access to a most beautiful grove; another stands beneath tremendous White Firs on the shores of the lake itself. Pleasant Valley, north of the Tuolumne River, boasts perhaps the greatest wealth of them, fringing its lily ponds and dropping down its long slopes. Tall, blue larkspurs, monkshood, columbines, and ferns throng their light shade. At Aspen Valley or Porcupine Flat on the Tioga Road, along the little stream that runs toward Chinquapin from the summit of the Bridalveil Creek ridge on the Glacier Point Road, in the tangled thickets of Glen Aulin, there are countless places where they may be found, and always they are a joy to the eye.



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