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Tulip Poplar- Lirodendron tulipfera is a giant of the eastern forest and the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This member of the Magnolia family is known by many local names such as, Yellow Poplar, Poplar, Tulip Tree, Tulip Wood, Tulip magnolia, and Whitewood. Yellow Poplar is an important timber tree soaring easily to 100 feet or more under prime conditions. The Yellow Poplar grows quickly and sheds lower limbs at a young age leaving a smooth trunk, often for the lower third or even half its height.

Photo by David Hughes
Tulip Poplar Leaves
Tulip Poplar Flowers
Tulip Poplar Flowers

The overall shape of the tree is an even pyramidal when young, very like a deciduous Christmas tree. As the tree matures it develops a round topped columnar shape which transforms to a broad open topped gently weeping shape in old age.

A young tree will begin to bloom at 10 to 12 years of age. The flowers are large tulip like flowers with large greenish yellow petals surrounding a golden yellow center. Beekeepers know these large flowers contain a tablespoon of nectar each. Bees love Tulip Poplar flowers for this nectar and the abundance of pollen in each of the thousands of flowers. Enough honey can be produced during the bloom to make “Poplar Honey”, a rich, strong, dark colored honey favored by many. Bakers particularly like Poplar honey for its ability to hold up to cooking.

Tulip Poplar is an important timber tree in the Eastern US. Its rapid growth and tendency to produce a clean straight limb free trunk make it a premium tree, Managed forests can be profitably harvested every 20 to 30 years.

Tulip Poplar
Tulip Poplar

The wood itself is relatively soft with a white sapwood and yellow heartwood that ages to green. Slow grown old growth heartwood aged to a deep forest green. Tulip Poplar  lumber is used as a secondary wood in fine furniture and as a primary wood in painted furniture, millwork and cabinets. It is regularly used as the frame stock for upholstered furniture. The wood is easy to work and readily available.

The Tulip Poplar took advantage of a portion of the void in the eastern forest left by the loss of the American Chestnut. This tree favors the lower and middle slopes of hillsides as well as bottom lands. Oaks filled the upper hillsides and ridge tops.

Where space allows the Tulip Poplar makes a powerful statement in the landscape.

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