The Black Poplar Planting Project commemorates the centenary of WW1 1914-1918, while also working to ensure the long-term survival of our native black poplar trees.

Free Trees for Community Spaces

Over the years 2014 – 2018 the Black Poplar Planting Project provided 100 black poplar saplings free of charge to community spaces. These were supplied in pairs, 1 male and 1 female, of genetically rare native black poplars.

This has been funded through the Gloucestershire FWAG Auction of Promises kindly hosted by the Earl Bathurst and Countess Bathurst at the Mansion, Cirencester Park last October. We would like to thank all those who donated lots and helped to organise the event.

Left: Some of the Stroud Valley Project Volunteers Sam Morgan, Rob Flight, Megan Butt, Andreea & Clara Iacob joined FWAG SouthWest adviser Sarah Wells to plant one of the pairs in Stratford Park, Stroud.

Project Background

Black poplars have a striking shape and colour and were a common sight during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when soldiers of the Great War would have been growing up.

The Black Poplars were utilised for timber for thousands of years, prized for their soft, white, shock absorbing wood. Commonly used for the handles of tools, axels of carts and even the butts of rifles, these trees were a common feature of Gloucestershire’s farmed landscape. They then fell out of favour in the 1850’s when more productive hybrids became available. This, coupled with the drainage of wetland areas, has caused dramatic population declines with the result that the black poplar is Britain’s most threatened native timber tree.

These rare trees are now largely absent from our landscape and unknown to the younger generations. This is why Gloucestershire FWAG felt this project was a fitting tribute to the soldiers that fell in the Great War, one which will serve as a long-term reminder for generations to come and reinstate a feature of our historic landscape.

The project planted black poplar in pairs to help preserve the UK’s genetic stock; the trees can be grown from cuttings very easily in the same way as willows, by simply placing a stick in the ground it will most likely grow.  However growing them from seed is far more difficult. Firstly both male and female trees are needed and the fertilised seed needs to fall on bare, wet ground and lay undisturbed until the following June when it will hopefully germinate. Due to these difficulties for hundreds of years black poplars were simply cloned (planted from cuttings), with the result that the UK population has very limited genetic diversity. On top of this male trees were favoured because the females produce a large quantity of fluffy seed which was seen as a nuisance! This has left us with very few female trees and even fewer genetically individual female trees.

To ensure the trees planted by this project were as genetically diverse as possible the project worked closely with the UK Black Poplar Clone Bank, as well as with Liz and Bob Taylor of Gloucestershire’s Park Farm Nurseries, who kindly donated 100 trees.