Quaking or trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) is a foundational tree species, which is native, common, and broadly distributed in North America. The ecology of aspen has been extensively studied throughout its range, but both research and forest management practices have focused primarily on its ability to regenerate asexually via root suckering. The seed-based reproductive ecology of aspen has received comparatively little attention, and information on the underlying processes, mechanisms, and requirements of seed regeneration tends to be scattered, somewhat anecdotal, or based only on localized research efforts.
Here we review and explore some of the variables that influence the sexual reproduction and early establishment of aspen. We focus this review on western North America, where trembling aspen plays a dominant ecological role and may be disproportionately impacted by climate change. This synthesis presents existing information and identifies critical knowledge gaps in our understanding of seed –based aspen regeneration, in particular as it relates to flowering and seed production, as well as germination, first year growth, and survival of aspen seedlings. This information is discussed further in the context of aspen ecology and its application in both passive and active management approaches to aspen seedling regeneration and restoration.