Species-specific microsatellite markers were obtained for the unambiguous recognition of five poplar species of ecological and commercial importance to eastern North America: the native species Populus balsamifera and Populus deltoides, the exotic species Populus maximowiczii, Populus nigra, Populus trichocarpa and their interspecific hybrids. Forty-four of 71 tested primer pairs amplified simple sequence repeat (SSR) loci for all five taxa. Six of these loci showed non-overlapping allelic diversity between species, including fixed differences. Together, they were useful to identify unambiguously the five taxa and to validate parental contributions in a group of hybrid progeny. These markers will be invaluable to detect gene flow from plantations of exotic poplar into adjacent stands of native species and between the two potentially hybridizing native species P. balsamifera and P. deltoides.