Natural Wonders Table of Contents
Natural Wonders is a series consisting of 11 parts.
- Natural Wonders: Quaking Aspen Trees
- Natural Wonders: Monarch Butterflies
- Natural Wonders: Barred Owls
- Natural Wonders: Hot Springs
- Natural Wonders: Grizzly Bears
- Natural Wonders: Marble
- Natural Wonders: Fall Aster
- Natural Wonders: Black Widow Spider
- Natural Wonders: Gray Wolf
- Natural Wonders: Bald Eagles
- Natural Wonders: Arctic Fox
Take some time to learn about the natural wonders in our world.
A walk beneath a golden canopy of shimmering aspen leaves is an autumn memory you are not likely to forget.
Quaking aspen trees are the most widely distributed tree species in North America, so it’s no wonder why their annual transformation is observed and celebrated by many.
The quaking aspen are named for the “quaking” or trembling leaves that make a gentle rustling noise with a breeze. The trees are tall and fast-growing, reaching an average of 60 to 80 feet tall, and with trunk diameters between 7 to 30 inches.
The aspen tree bark is generally a white-gray color with distinctive blank knots and scars that spread throughout the surface of the trunk. The leaves are round with a tip, and between one and three inches in diameter.
The aspens are well-known for marking the start of autumn with their distinct fall foliage—leaves that change from their summer green color to a golden yellow (with occasional red and orange accents)—in September and October, and then fall-off the trees as winter approaches.
North American aspen trees are generally found in cooler mountainous areas above at least 1,500 feet in elevation, as far north as Alaska and reaching to high areas of northern Mexico.
The aspens are found in large patches, since they are connected together as one organism, with a single root pattern that thrives beneath the surface of the soil. The trees provide food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including deer, bears, elk, moose, ruffed grouse, rabbits, chipmunks and small birds and insects.
The aspen’s existence seems solid, like the strong and tall trunks that fill hillsides and mountain valleys with trembling leaves. The aspens, however, are susceptible to ailments, and recently acreage in Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and Canada have experienced some die-off.
Fires and deforestation are always a threat to the trees, but the complex root system often survives enough to sprout new trees after wildfires.
Mid to late September and early October often marks the peak of the changing leaves for the trees, so take a day-trip to retreat to the hills and walk among the aspen.