I’m a fan of trembling aspen. Few plants can be said to make a memorable noise or movement, but the flutter of aspen leaves in a breeze is oft a subject of prose, including Shakespeare.
The culprit behind the designs on these leaves is another matter. I believe no one has yet written “An Ode to Phyllocnistis populiella“, the aspen serpentine leafminer. The larva of this moth will tunnel and eat its way through both the spongy mesophyll and the chlorophyll-dense palisade mesophyll of a leaf, leaving behind a whitened snake-like pattern bisected by a brown trail of excreta.
When there is a mass infestation of aspen serpentine leafminers, whole stands of trembling aspen will change from green to silver in appearance. This is what I observed in the area surrounding Merritt, British Columbia, a couple weekends ago, and I regret not getting a landscape shot of these “silver ghosts”. It was a phenomenon I’d never seen before.
However, it seems like I’ll have more opportunities in the future. It has been anecdotally reported that mass infestations are on the increase, speculatively due to a rise in winter mean temperature (source: “Leafminer Impacts on Photosynthetic Ability of Populus tremuloides” (PDF), a research paper by Kaarle Strailey as part of coursework at Berkeley).