Unfortunately, this is most likely due to a sticky and oily fungus that lives in a substance called honeydew, which is in turn secreted by aphids infesting your poplars. Check the trees, and if they are crawling with ants, then you probably have aphids, as ants farm aphids to eat the honeydew as well. This mold is a problem, as it can cling to the leaves and kill them, harming the poplars, in addition to the damages aphids might do on their own. See the links for suggestions on how to deal with these pests.
I hope this helped!
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