The Mighty Tulip Poplar

— Written By Lauren Hill
en Español / em Português

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We don’t often get to appreciate the lovely Tulip Poplar flowers as they are usually so high up in the trees. A neighbor has a tree with limbs close to the ground and others that drop these beautiful flowers. I wanted to share some photos and information with you.

TULIP POPLAR    Lirodendron tulipifera “Tuliptree” “Yellow Poplar”

Description:  A tall beautiful hardwood, this tree has a long straight trunk and a narrow crown that broadens with age. It grows 80-120’ and 2-3’ wide or more. It is a member of the magnolia family, not the poplar. It was named by Carolus Linnaeus, a Swiss botanist.

Leaves: They emerge early, in late March and are 3-6” long, dark green above and lighter below turning yellow in the fall. The blades are unusual with a broad tip and base nearly straight with 4-6 short, pointed, paired lobes.

Bark: Deeply furrowed with age, dark grey to brownish red.

Flowers: Showy tulip-like flowers, solitary and upright, they are cupped with 6 rounded green petals, orange and yellow at the base.

Fruit: 2 ½ – 3” long and light brown it is cone-like and made of overlapping seeded nutlets.

Habitat: The tulip poplar can be found from Vermont to north Florida and west from California to Louisiana. It likes moist, deep, well-drained, acid soils and grows well on slopes and in valleys.

Uses: The poplar is a hardwood though wood is weak. It is used to make furniture, crates, toys, pulpwood, and musical instruments.

History: Early colonists introduced it to Europe from Virginia. It also grew on the west coast in primeval forests. Pioneers used it to make canoes that rotted quickly when wet. After losing a land grant suit in 1799, a Kentucky settlement made a canoe of a poplar 60’ long and, led by Daniel Boone, traveled to St. Louis. The women and children rode in the canoe while the men drove the livestock on the bank. There were 35 people with their families and household goods. Upon arriving in St. Louis, the Spanish granted them land for another settlement. Tulip Poplar was designated the state tree of Tennessee in 1947 and of Kentucky in 1954.

Sources: Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Eastern Region, E L Little, 1980; garden; Wikipedia: wiki/Tree

By: Mark Robinson and Lauren Hill

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