(Populus alba) "White", because, although the bark is black, it becomes grey or even yellowish-white higher up the branches (Leathart). The leaves, too, are white on the undersides, and blackish-green above, a fact that was used to explain the reason for its being the symbol of time, for those leaves show the alternation between night and day. That and the fact that they always seem to be in motion were enough to excite somebody's imagination into inaugurating the symbolism (Dyer. 1889). Greek mythology had the two colours of the leaves as representing the underworld (the dark side) and the world of the living (the light side) (Baumann).
To carry a wand of poplar when walking, to prevent the legs getting chafed (C J S Thompson. 1947) sounds nonsense, and is probably a garbled version of something quite different, perhaps the magical use of ash for a similar problem when on horseback. One superstition has it that poplars (not necessarily just this one) always lean to the east (Nall). There are a few genuine uses in folk medicine: Somerset people used to boil the bark, and drink the infusion for flatulence and fevers (Tongue). Gerard also recommended the bark, but for sciatica "or ache in the huckle bones", and for the strangury. "The same barke is also reported to make a woman barren if it be drunke with the kidney of a Mule, which thing the leaves also are thought to performe ...".
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