The poets never disappoint. Scottish writer Walter Scott brought a special tree to prose” “O, Woman! in our hours of ease, Uncertain, coy, and hard to please, And variable as the shade By the light quivering aspen made; When pain and anguish wring the brow, A ministering angel thou!”

Aspen strikes a pose in its own expressive way. Its quivering leaves, which tremble due to a long, flattened petiole that attaches the leaves to the stem shimmers in the lightest wind.

This revered tree is not as common here as it is across the country and continent. Repeatedly referred to as the most widely distributed tree in North America, quaking aspen is noted for its ubiquity off-Island. Coming across a grove of aspen sprouts in a field in the state forest, I was immediately smitten with the trembling leaves that poets and naturalists describe as whispering.

It’s not only romantic. Scientifically, the trembling may also provide advantages to the plant. The movement of the leaves can reduce light absorption and thus heat stress and may even minimize insect damage. One study showed that when a leaf was stabilized and not free to move with the breeze, insect damage was 27 per cent higher than the adjacent leaves that were not so inhibited.

The sprouts or suckers of the aspen have their own interesting story. Quaking aspen can reproduce sexually with male and female plants or vegetatively through sprouts from the root system. The sprouts, or suckers, are clones of the parent tree which can be quite fruitful and spawn impressive amounts of them.

Because of this explosive expansion of a single individual tree, aspen have been referred to the largest known living thing on earth. One aspen grove in Utah has 50,000 sprouts from a single plant’s root system, covers 100 acres, and weighs 6,000 tons. This mighty tree and its babies even have a name, Pando, meaning I spread, though it is also referred to as the trembling giant.

Furthermore, and fascinatingly, all of the sprouts or clones of a single tree will change color at the same time, turning a field of aspen clones golden blaze yellow. The whole organism also synchronizes leaf out and flower production. What a sight that must be.

The bark of the aspen is as much as an overachiever, having the unusual ability to photosynthesize. In one study, the bark was able to produce up to 50 per cent of the photosynthetic capacity of its leaves. So, during winter, this tree can make its own food, even without its green leaves. The bark has a compound that acts as a quinine substitute and was used medicinally by Native Americans for a variety of ailments. A concoction from the buds makes a cough syrup and components salicin and populin provide relief from fever, pain, and inflammation.

Mystical qualities are attributed to aspen. Try putting a leaf under your tongue for eloquence or cure ague, which is a shaking palsy, since some believe that a disease can be cured with a plant that has the same qualities or symptoms.

Though many benefits are attributed to aspen, perhaps the most endearing is its lack of splintering. Smartly, this wood is employed for popsicle sticks, playgrounds and even sauna seating. The later assures that quaking aspen will never cause a problem for your posterior or be considered a pain in the butt.

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.