Extensive characterization of the poplar GH9 gene family provides new insights into GH9 function and evolution in woody species, and may drive novel progress for molecular breeding in trees. In higher plants, endo-β-1,4-glucanases (cellulases) belonging to the glycosyl hydrolase family 9 (GH9) have roles in cell wall synthesis, remodeling and degradation. To increase the understanding of the GH9 family in perennial woody species, we conducted an extensive characterization of the GH9 family in the model tree species, Populus. We characterized 25 putative GH9 members in Populus with three subclasses (A, B, and C), using structures and bioinformatic analysis. Phylogenetic analyses of 114 GH9s from plant (dicot, monocot, and conifer) and bacterial species (outgroup) demonstrated that plant GH9s are monophyletic with respect to bacteria GH9s. Three subclasses, A, B, and C, of plant GH9 are formed before the divergence of angiosperms and gymnosperms. Chromosomal localization and duplications of GH9s in the Populus genome showed that eight paralogous pairs remained in conserved positions on segmental duplicated blocks, suggesting duplication of chromosomal segments has contributed to the family expansion. By examining tissue-specific expression profiles for all 25 members, we found that GH9 members exhibited distinct but partially overlapping expression patterns, while certain members have higher transcript abundance in mature or developing xylem. Based on our understanding of intraspecific variation and linkage disequilibrium of two KORRIGANs (PtoKOR1 and PtoKOR2) in natural population of Populus tomentosa, two non-synonymous SNPs in PtoKOR1 associated with fiber width and holocellulose content were obtained. Characterizations of the poplar GH9 family provide new insights into GH9 function and evolution in woody species, and may drive novel progress for molecular breeding in trees.