aspen vs poplar wood

Aspen VS Poplar Wood: Which Is Better for Your Next Woodworking Project

When woods are the topics of discussion, people inevitably give their views based on their familiarity and what they have learned about these woods. Aspen vs. poplar wood is something that people should learn so that the moment they are asked to share their views about these woods, it would be easier for them to do so because they know the differences and unique features of each wood. 

Before we dive deeper into this aspen vs poplar article, take time to know the difference between these trees. Aspens are a type of Poplar. They’re bandied about as if they’re a distinct genus; only Poplar is considered a genus. So, it is fair to say that aspen and poplar differ in plant classification and taxonomy. 

What is Aspen Wood?

Aspen is a soft, white, and relatively strong wood with low flammability. This has several important uses, particularly in the making of paper and matches, since its low flammability feature makes it safer to use than other types of wood. The shredded aspen is best used for stuffing and packing.

Aspen is a hardwood, but though it’s a hardwood species, this is often offered by most softwood manufacturers. Aspen comes with white sapwood having heartwood that changes hues from brown to greyish with no apparent transition.

 Aspen is the ideal woof for furniture that features a rustic look. This wood takes paint and stain well and sands nicely as well. Aspen also offers a good level of durability. Aspen’s grains are refined with some diffuse pores when it comes to texture. 

What is Poplar Wood? 

On the other hand, Poplar wood is a wood species commonly utilized in furniture making and in making wooden toys, plywood, and cabinets. Poplar wood is categorized as hardwood and easy to work with, like pine boards and other softwoods. This wood is a popular option for interior work. Poplar is also one of the highly flexible woods available these days. 

Though a hardwood, Poplar isn’t very hard, and that is because the terms “softwood” and “hardwood” are somewhat confusing. Botanically speaking, poplar is a known angiosperm that pertains to hardwood. Gymnosperms, including conifers like cedars and pines, are referred to as softwoods. 

Aspen vs Poplar-Unveiling the Differences 

There are notable differences between aspen and poplar that people should know. These differences in many different aspects are highlighted below.

Place of Origin

Aspen is native to the northern United States and Canada. Aspen wood is a beautiful wood with consistent texture and striking beauty. Aspen trees grow about 65 to 100 feet tall and have trunks from 2 to 3 feet. Poplar originates from the Northern Hemisphere and is divided into three groups: balsam poplars, aspens, and cottonwoods. 

Characteristics & Qualities 

Aspen gives an exciting look that differs significantly between pieces. This wood also provides a unique grain appearance. Due to the wood’s softness, many woodworkers find Aspen easy to work with. However, cutting tools should be sharp to prevent making fuzzy surfaces. Such surfaces will need fine sanding to achieve a smooth feel. 

Aspen wood withstands splitting; thus, this wood can accept screws and nails well. Since it’s soft, you can work with this wood efficiently using your hand tools. Aspen wood’s pliable nature and strength make it simple to shape and carve. Its character and color perfectly fit furniture with a rustic style. 

Poplar wood is ivory or white in tone with brown or green streaks, straight-grained, and has medium to fine texture. This is a versatile type of wood and is easy to bore, glue, turn, plane, and machine. Poplar wood dries quickly with fewer movements in performance. This takes and holds stain, enamel, and paint exceptionally well. These characteristics of poplar make it one of the leading choices in utility woods. 

Common Wood Uses 

Aspen is known for its variety of uses. Aspen wood is commonly used to make matches, furniture, animal bedding, sauna construction, replaceable fencing, etc. Though not considered as good lumber wood or pulp, aspen wood offers good quality that makes it in demand for various applications. 

Since poplar wood is readily available, we discovered that poplar is also used in a wide range of applications. The common uses of poplar wood are cabinets, moldings and trims, furniture, crates, boxes and pallets, picture frames, and other construction purposes. 


Aspen is half as strong as the red oak. The hardness is just 350 pounds, but aspen is strong enough to be utilized in pallets, home buildings, and other structural applications. The wood’s bending strength is about 8400 psi and with 1.2 million psi elasticity. 

Despite being soft tropical hardwood, poplar wood is still a stronger wood than pine wood. This wood has a unique hardness value relatively high density and compressive bending strength than many other types of wood. Since poplar wood is strong, this wood is often favored for making picture frames, furniture, cabinets, and more. 

The differences revealed in this aspen vs poplar write-up will give many people an idea about each type of wood’s strong and weak points. People will also understand the reason why aspen and poplar are chosen applications. 


Woods are not created equal. There will undoubtedly be factors or aspects that distinguish one type of wood from another. This is also true with aspen and poplar wood. To conclude, Aspen is technically harder than Poplar. The latter is a hardwood but not utilized for commercial purposes. On the other hand, Aspen is categorized as soft hardwood but still harder than the poplar. 

Aspen vs Poplar are both famous for how they look and display appeal. Both kinds of wood are widely used for different applications and have a significant share in the wood industry. Although aspen and poplar are different from each other in several aspects like place of origin, characteristics/ qualities, common wood uses, and strength, there are still similarities between them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are poplar trees?

Poplar trees are deciduous trees that belong to the genus Populus. They are commonly found in North America and are known for their rapid growth and tall stature.

What is the difference between aspen and other types of poplar trees?

Aspen trees are a specific type of poplar tree, which is characterized by their distinctive white bark and trembling leaves. While all poplars belong to the Populus genus, aspen trees are known for their unique features.

How is woodworking with poplar wood different from other types?

Poplar wood is commonly used in woodworking due to its versatility and ease of workability. It is a softer hardwood compared to woods like maple or pine, making it ideal for projects that require shaping and finishing.

What are the characteristics of aspen trees, particularly the trembling aspen?

Aspen trees, including the trembling aspen, are known for their distinctive white bark, quaking leaves in the slightest breeze, and their ability to thrive in various environmental conditions.

Why is yellow poplar sometimes referred to as tulipwood?

Yellow poplar is commonly known as tulipwood due to its yellowish color and the resemblance of its flowers to tulips. Despite the name, it is not related to the tulip flower.

Are cottonwoods part of the same family as poplars and aspens?

Yes, cottonwoods belong to the same family as poplars and aspens.



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