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The poplars are a small genus of about 35 species and a small number of cultivars. They tend to be big trees and on the whole they are not suitable for small gardens. Another reason is that most have very extensive root systems that can damage the foundations of buildings. Several are capable of growing to 30m (100ft) while some even grow up to 35-40m (120-130ft). They often have an elegant shape, the Italian poplar P. nigra var. italica being especially so as it grows into a towering column, so earn their keep in large gardens and arboretums. Another problem as far as small gardens are concerned is that they are hungry and thirsty plants and so it is difficult to grow other plants near them. Again this is not a problem where space is available. The poplars are mainly deciduous and have leathery leaves which in many species are constantly moving, often making a continuous rustling sound like falling water. The aspen, P. tremmula, is the best known of these. P. alba moves similarly and has the added advantage of having dark green leaves with a silvery reverse, which is exposed as they move. The flowers are carried in catkins and masses of fluffy seeds are produced which often collects on the ground in such a way that is often mistaken for late snow.

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