tulip poplar

Liriodendron tulipifera. The Tulip Poplar. 
Last summer this tulip poplar sprung up quickly in the wake of a huge tree fall. The leaf is odd. Four lobes separated by narrow sinuses. A pioneer species, its wide leaves gobble up sunlight, using chemical energy to turn atmosphere into tissue, using the flow of photons to grow fast into the sky to meet the light.

If this tree survives the test of time, mainly the competition for sunlight as the forest that will eventually grow around it, it will become one of the noblest trees, a true forest giant. Atop its canopy, out of human sight, it will bloom with hundreds of large tulip-like flowers, which attract bees and butterflies for pollination. At my home forest in Maryland, there is a Tulip Poplar 6 feet in diameter, greater than 100 feet tall. My brother and I (and a few friends) would crawl into its heart through a hole in the base of the trunk, often finding dead animals that never woke from winter hibernation. My mom called it 'Atlas' when she discovered it as a little girl.

Such trees are exceedingly rare at hundreds of years old. It was spared by the Lenape Indians, who called it canoe wood. It was spared by peddlers of ethnobotanical medicine, which, according to the United States Pharmacopoeia (1830) could 'Dose one scruple to two drachms, in powder for fevers, chronic rheumatism, dyspepsia, and other complaints, in which a gentle stimulant and tonic impression is desirable." It was spared by the woodsman's axe to clear for planting fields and pasture. It has remained despite us. 
The most glorious stand of this species is in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in NC, a patch also spared from logging. Joyce Kilmer, the WW1 veteran that wrote, 'A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast'. @arbordayfoundation @discovertheforest@sierraclub @sierraclubmd@kissthegroundca @feetontheearth

Philip TaylorComment