poplar, or tulip tree, is named for its greenish-yellow heartwood
and its attractive tulip-like flowers. The heartwood does not
develop until the tree obtains considerable diameter, lisually
2 feet or more. Loggers refer to a young yellow poplar as "white
poplar" because heartwood color has not yet formed.
Yellow poplar is one of the largest and most valuable hardwood
trees in the United States.
Yellow poplar can be found throughout the state but grows best
in deep moist soils along streams and in lower mountain coves.
It commonly reaches a height of 90 to 110 feet and a trunk diameter
of from 2 to 5 feet. The tree has been known to reach heights
of nearly 200 feet, with a straight, clear trunk 8 to 10 feet
in diameter. Some trees may be free of branches for as high as
80 to 100 feet from the ground.
The crown has a compact, pyramidal shape, and often tapers sharply
to the top.
Yellow poplar bark is light gray and becomes thick and deeply
furrowed on older trees. Flowers are tulip-like, and 1 1/2 to
2 inches across. The petals are yellowish-green and conspicuously
marked with reddish-orange bands near the base. The fruit is a
cone-like aggregate, 2 1/2 to 3 inches long, that breaks up as
it matures in September and October.
Yellow poplar leaves are easily recognized, because they are composed
of four large lobes. They are 5 to 6 inches long. They are about
as broad as they are long. The two outer lobes often flattened
into a squarish end. In autumn, the leaves of the yellow poplar
turn from green to bright yellow and stand out from leaves of
The terminal buds are about 1/2 inch long, flattened and valvate,
opening like a duck's bill. Sprouts and buds are one of the main
foods of deer, and squirrels eat yellow poplar seeds in early
fall and again in mid-winter.
The wood is light, soft and easily worked. It is light yellow
or brown, with wide cream-colored sapwood. Yellow poplar is extensively
cut into lumber for interior and exterior trim, vencers, flake
and chip boards, turnery and other high-grade uses.