Poplar trees are among the fastest growing trees in Europe as they can be harvested after 10 to 20 years, also during their growth cycle poplars capture carbon, thus helping in the task of tackling climate change.
In addition, poplar wood from sustainably managed plantations and forests is a suitable substitute of less sustainable materials such as single-use plastic.
Is Poplar a Hardwood?
Whether poplar should be considered a hardwood, or a softwood has been a matter of discussion for a long time. To answer this question truthfully, we need to go over the definition of these two terms.
Softwood is defined by the Collins Dictionary as “the open-grained wood of any of numerous coniferous trees, such as pine and cedar, as distinguished from that of a dicotyledonous tree”; whereas hardwood is defined as “the wood of any of numerous broad-leaved dicotyledonous trees, such as oak, beech, ash, etc, as distinguished from the wood of a conifer”.
Thus, by definition, poplar is a hardwood. Nevertheless, confusion begins because the terms hardwood and softwood make us think of hardness vs softness. The truth is that a softwood can be hard on the surface and vice versa. In fact, poplar wood is a good example of this, since being a hardwood it scores low than others in the hardness test, although higher than most softwoods.
Most of the confusion about poplar wood as hardwood comes from its properties as it has a soft feel and is light weighted; it is also straight grained and has a fine texture. Despite these characteristics, poplar wood is impressively strong and offers many advantages regarding mechanical properties.
What is Poplar Wood Used For?
Poplar wood is considered easy to work with. It is easily polished, stained or painted and can take nails without splintering, making it a good choice for the manufacture of home furniture or interior designs. Also, currently there is a soaring demand in high-end industries like campervans, trains, yachts, or boats, where it is used for interiors and furnishing.
Nowadays poplar is the main species used in the production of plywood in several European countries like Spain, France, Italy and Hungary. But not only for this purpose. It is an option for structural frames for the construction industry since recently researchers have successfully developed long glued laminated poplar-based beams with embedded carbon fibre fabrics between wooden boards.
Poplar wood is also used for matches, cheese boxes, medical tools, chopsticks, among others, and the fact that it is colourless, odourless and tasteless makes it an ideal material for the manufacture of packaging for the agri-food industry.