Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar TreeTulip Tree, Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron Tulipijera, Linn.) -A stately tall tree, 80 to 200 feet high, with trunk 5 to 10 feet in diameter, the crown conical at first, spreading in old age. Bark close, thick, intricately furrowed, brown. Wood light, soft, brittle, weak, easily worked, pale brown with narrow, white sap wood. Buds reddish with pale bloom, elongated, blunt. Leaves 5 to 6 inches long and wide, 3 or 4 lobed with shallow sinuses, apex truncate or concave, base truncate or heart shaped; margin entire, dark green, leathery, smooth, lustrous above, paler beneath; autumn colour, yellow. Flowers tulip-like; 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches across, sepals 3, greenish, recurved; petals 6, yellow, with orange splash near middle; stamens numerous with large yellow anthers: pistils numerous, imbricated around central receptacle. Fruit in September, seeds in dry, winged samaras that fall early from the persistent central spike. Few seeds fertile. Preferred habitat deep, rich soil. Distribution, Vermont to Florida; west to Illinois, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama; maximum size and greatest abundance in the lower Ohio Valley and on mountain slopes of North Carolina and Tennessee. Uses: A valuable shade and ornamental tree. Lumber used in boatbuilding, construction and interior finish of houses, for shingles brooms, small woodenwares, and wood pulp. Postal cards are made of "poplar" pulp. Bark yields an important tonic drug.
A grove of young tulip trees is most beautiful, I do believe, in the dead of winter. It is not hard to find the old seed tree, whose family of varying ages and sizes stand in close ranks all about. A young tulip is singularly straight and symmetrical, compared with the young of chestnut, dogwood and oak. It takes on very early in life the tree habit of later years. The shaft is tall and grey and smooth, crowned with an oval head of ascending branches, clean and handsome throughout.
The winter twigs, with their oblong terminal buds, are worth looking at. The leaf scars are prominent, and a narrow ridge encircles the twig at each scar. Spring tells the meaning of these lines, when the leafy shoots unfold. Cut across the terminal bud, and its contents exhibit all parts of a flower-or, if the tree be too young to bloom, the little leaves are revealed, packed away to wait for spring.
Two green leaves with palms fastened together form a flat bag that encloses the new shoot after the bud scales fall in spring. Hold it to the light and you see a curved petiole and leaf. The hag opens along its edge seam, and the petiole straightens up, lifting the leaf, which has its halves folded on the midrib. At the base of the petiole stands a smaller flat green bag. The leaf grows and takes on its mature, dark-green colour, while the basal palms of its protecting stipules shrivel and fall away. Their work is done. The place of their attachment is the ring scar. Within the second bag is the second leaf. The stem lengthens, mounting this little bag far above the first leaf before it opens to let out the second. So the growing point conceals itself, but grows on, unfolding a new leaf and expanding the shoot, node by node, until the growth of a whole season is accomplished. Suckers from the roots of a tree often exhibit unusual exuberance of growth, and hold the stipules at each joint as two broad, leafy blades, throughout the season.
The "chopped-off" ends of the leaves of the tulip tree set it apart from others at any season. Sometimes there are two shallow basal lobes, like those the maples have. Occasionally the apex is concave. Always the surface is shining, and turns to gold with birch and chestnut and hickory in the autumn.
The flowers are showy and handsome, with dashes of orange on their greenish-yellow corollas to attract the bees. The plan of the flower is much like the magnolias' until the central spike reveals its seeds. Magnolia seed vessels split up the back at maturity. Tulip capsules are dry and do not open. A flat wing rises above the angular, 2-Celled seed box. The outer keys loosen and fly away on the early autumnal breezes. These seeds are rarely fertile. Before winter is fairly come the shingled seeds that formed the tulip cone have all been carried off, and the pencil-like receptacle remains erect on the end of the twig.
The tulip poplar is a beautiful lawn and shade tree. It is a favourite in Europe. Only far-away China has a sister species in the genus Liriodendron. It is a pity that this stately native tree is not better known in cultivation in its own country. It needs the same care we bestow on magnolias in transplanting, for its roots are fleshy and tender. There is no season when the tree is not full of interest and beauty, no matter what its age.