Poplar fluff piles up on Edmonton trails and parks

It’s a scene that’s quite rare in Edmonton in June: Three young girls stopping on their bike ride to do snow angels. But the white stuff wasn’t snow; it was piles of poplar fluff.

The poplar fuzz has piled up along river valley paths and in parks all over Edmonton. In some areas, it looked like it had been snowing.

Katelynne Webb, Community Forest Leader with the City of Edmonton, said about eight per cent of the 340,000 trees in city parks and on boulevards are poplars.

The poplars trees native to Edmonton are aspen and balsam poplars.

“The amount that we’re seeing this year is actually comparable to what we see most seasons,” said Webb of the fluff.

“It’s a really healthy and natural process for our urban forest.”

Real Boudreau, a certified arborist with Tree Ninja in Edmonton, said the poplar fluff could also signal the trees are stressed.

“Poplars are trying to make babies.”

Boudreau said last May was exceptionally dry which could have prompted the tress to spread their seeds.

“They have the perception, if you can call it that, that they’re going to die,” said Boudreau. “So they’re trying to maintain the species.”

“This season has been hot and wet, which is great conditions for a lot of reproducing.”

Boudreau said it was the same situation a few years ago in Calgary.

The city said since the 1980s it has been replacing dead poplar trees with other varieties to promote diversity in Edmonton forests.

While the fluff may be a nuisance, Webb stressed it isn’t hazardous to human health and usually gets a bad rap from people suffering seasonal allergies.

“The poplar fluff production does coincide with grass pollen season,” said Webb.

“This is just a mis-association; it’s usually allergies to the grass pollen.”

If the fluff is enough to make your eyes water, both Webb and Boudreau said the white stuff usually only sticks around for a few weeks.

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