Poplar Fluff is Highly Flammable

Caitlin Dempsey


In certain cities around the world, the advent of spring also brings with it a blanketing of fluffy tree material. Known as poplar fluff, the billowy pale drifts are actually seeds from female poplar trees.

Belonging to the genus Populus , poplar trees are native to the Northern Hemisphere and include species such as cottonwoods, aspens, and balsam poplars.

Once a common tree planted in urban areas, the word Populus stems from the Latin for “belonging to the people” and the trees were once typically planted around public areas during Roman times.

Each spring, female poplar trees unleash massive amounts of seeds. These seeds contain fluffy seed hairs designed to catch the wind to help widely disperse them. The seeds end up coating the ground with a dense covering of fluff.

Poplar fluff by the mill race.   © Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Poplar fluff by the mill race. © Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

The seed fluff produced by poplars is also highly flammable. The combustible seeds can quickly catch fire and burn off, leaving underlying grass and other vegetation untouched.

This video captured from a burn in Parque del Cidacos de Calahorra in Spain, shows the speed at which poplar fluff is burned. The line of the poplar fluff fire burns at a fairly fast moving pace, leaving the underlying grass and nearby park benches and trees unscathed.



Ruiz, R. (2020, May 7). El impactante incendio de pelusas de chopo en Calahorra Que se ha viralizado. COPE. https://www.cope.es/emisoras/la-rioja/la-rioja-provincia/logrono/noticias/impactante-incendio-pelusas-chopo-calahorra-que-viralizada-20200507_709241


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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