Properties and utilization of poplar wood
Hybrid poplars are fast-growing, moisture-loving, full-sun-loving large trees that can be a rapid source of wood fiber. With the introduction of waferboard, oriented strandboard (OSB), and laminated strand lumber (LSL), aspen utilization has dramatically increased. Indigenous and hybrid poplars, however, present their own challenges, such as high discoloration potential, difficulty in drying, and high tension wood content. Further research is needed for improved selection of clones to ensure that desirable physical and mechanical qualities of poplar wood are produced for the anticipated site location and final utilization, To date, the most promising utilization possibilities for hybrid poplar appear to be in the pulp and paper, laminated strand lumber, and structural panel industries. The mechanical properties of structural lumber cut from hybrid poplar will only compete in the stud market. Structural composites such as OSB and LSL made from indigenous and hybrid poplars can, however, be used effectively in other engineered structural applications (Fig. 5). Secondary manufacturing of clear wood cuttings of hybrid poplar may also offer possible uses of this material. A more idealistic goal for poplars is to make use of the rapid growth and deep root structure of these poplar clones for phytoremediation efforts to clean up contaminated sites. In the past, poplar trees had been regarded as weed trees that needed to be removed from a stand. Changes in resource availability, advances in technology, and imagination have proven that there are many uses for indigenous and hybrid poplar clones that take advantage of their special properties.