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Balsam poplar - Populus balsamifera

On the North American continent, Populus balsamifera is the northernmost hardwood tree, growing transcontinentally across much of Canada and Alaska. It only touches down into a handful of states in the contiguous US, covering most of Vermont, Maine, Minnesota, and Michigan. Although short lived, the balsam poplar is a hardy tree. It is a pioneer species, favoring boreal floodplains, montane uplands, gravel, and riparian zones. Its sticky, sappy buds are highly aromatic and complex-- the most fragrant example of "poplar buds." The notes include church incense, wine, sour plums, raisins, musk, and the scent of lactobacillus, which is responsible for the characteristic aroma and taste of Flanders red ales. After picking poplar buds for several hours, I notice a dried saliva back note as the resin accumulates on my fingers and blackens. Poplar bud absolute also works as a powerful fixative in natural perfumery. Even after tincturing fresh in high proof alcohol, the plant matter retains a considerable amount of fragrance and can be dried and used for incense. Much of the poplar buds included in my perfume and incense are balsam poplar. I also collect several other species to tincture and extract into an absolute, but my favorite is balsam with its unparalleled odor. The red twigs stand out, looking like reeds with smooth talon shaped buds of the same color curving off of the tip and along the stalk.
Balsam poplar - Populus balsamifera
Plant part: fresh buds.
Scent: Lactobacillus, church incense, fortified wine, sour plums, raisins, musk, caramel, amber, brown sugar, wild yeast, tannins, dried saliva back note.
Note: middle to base, fixative.
Tenacity: excellent.
Poplar buds, twigs, bark, and leaves provide a food source to a variety of animals, and bees use the bud sap to disinfect their hives.
Click here to purchase my absolute of Populus balsamifera buds at peak ripeness. Click here to see all Wild Veil products that feature balsam poplar.
Copyright 2021 Abby Hinsman for Wild Veil Perfume.