Black Poplars

Black Poplars
John Baldwin and Ken Halpin planting a Black Poplar

Back in December 2003, we collected some saplings of Sussex Black Poplar from Wakehurst Place and, with our team of volunteers, planted them out at Castle Water. 

They have grown a bit since then and are now a haven for wildlife. In the photo above, two of our loyal volunteers, Ken Halpin (right) and John Baldwin, were planting the saplings, with a wire mesh rabbit guard and label of origin, near the reedbed viewpoint. 

Sadly, Ken and John have both died since then, but we remember their contribution to our work at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

For over twenty five years, Sussex Wildlife Trust has been working in partnership with Wakehurst Place (Kew) and the Sussex Black Poplar Working Group to conserve the native black poplar tree (ssp betulifolia) and help prevent it from becoming extinct. click here for more detail.

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This is what the saplings look like now, about 15m tall and they are a good place to look for some migrant woodland birds, such as Willow Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart.

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Last week I spent ten minutes looking at the leaves of the Black Poplars because they were speckled with a yellow rust fungus

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looking closer at the rust pustules on the underside of the leaf

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then, under another leaf there was also the mine of an insect that had fed and grown up beneath the leaf surface - it might be this micro-moth.

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then an insect that at first looked to be an aphid, but (with the help of Bob, one of our regular visiting experts - remember this?) turned out to be a bark fly, probably Ectopsocus briggsi

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Then another leaf had a curiously coiled stem and a bit of research found this is a gall created by the Poplar Spiral Gall Aphid -  find out more about this very interesting insect here.

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There are several useful books to find out more about plant galls - see here - but the most user friendly Britain's Plant Galls: A Photographic Guide by Michael Chinery.

So wildlife conservation is a long term project, it can be easy to do and with a little bit of close observation and detective work you can discover weird and wonderful wildlife all around you.


  • Phillip Ellis:

    24 Sep 2020 10:59:00

    There are about a 100 Populus nigra betulifolia on the Keynor estate near Sidlesham 15/20m high, absolutely covered with yellow rust. Can send photographs.

  • Andrew Simpson:

    24 Sep 2020 12:09:00

    I have a Black Poplar in my garden by the river here in Lewes and had no idea they are so rare! Now I know why it benefits from a TPO. Happy for someone to come and have a look and see if we can help with the project. > Kind regards,
    Andrew Simpson

    Thank you Andrew. It's good to hear about the TPO and that you now know about your tree!
  • Patrícia Hall:

    24 Sep 2020 13:08:00

    Ferring Conservation Group have planted half a dozen black poplars along the Ferring Rife but we think they are all males. Is there a source of female ones?

    Hi Patricia. The Ferring Conservation group have planted three separate lots of trees. In 2006 they planted some males, in 2012 they planted some, but we don’t have records of the sex, and in 2014 they planted some females. Depending on whether they all survived they should therefore have some females. Fran Southgate
  • Linda Hosken:

    24 Sep 2020 17:32:00

    I’ve just joined the Sussex Wildlife Trust, but being in a wheelchair most of the time I can’t get out to help with any work needed. I live the country side & I am so pleased that there are people wanting to help with the very important conservation that has to be done. For this I am very grateful. My question is to ask, are we going to lose these black popular trees because of these mite things living on them x

    Hi Linda. Thank you for joining the trust. We're delighted to have you as a member, and thank you for your good thoughts. The mites are a part of the ecosystem that depend upon the tree. Their numbers will be kept in check by predators such as spiders and small birds. I'm not sure if you're aware of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve's new visitor centre, the Discovery Centre? It will offer great access and facilities for wheelchair users when open. The Rye Harbour Nature Reserve hides are also accessible. At the moment, the temporary road closure (and the fact that the Discovery Centre isn't open yet) means it not good for access at all - but that should all change in the next few months Emma
  • G B Awty:

    21 Jan 2021 10:25:00

    I’m pretty sure that there is a mature black poplar on my parents’ property near East Grinstead. It had an enormous crop of fluffy seed at the end of last year, but has shed some big branches in the last few years, and has an enormous “scar” which I think might be from a lightning strike many many years ago. 
    I don’t think that it’s one of the 38 recorded as remaining on the Sussex Wildlife Trust website! I’d be delighted if someone wanted to come and have a look?

  • 13 Jul 2021 23:01:00

    Hi! I’ve been trying to get hold of the Sussex Black Poplar Working Group, or find a contact email or telephone number to enquire about the female black poplars in Sussex. can anyone help please?

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