A poplar has smooth light gray bark. Its leaves are about the size and shape of a pointy webbed hand. Its a fast growing tree. It grows straight up with few or no limbs until it reaches the sunlight. That's what makes it easily recognizable. Another distinguishing characteristic is its large yellow tulip-like flowers. It's good for making tomato or bean stakes out of when it's small because it's so straight.
The leaves on poplar trees very in shades of green and have a heart or lobed appearance, the bark on older trees is rough with many cracks. This tree flowers in the early spring producing long dropping catkins.