The yellow poplar tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), commonly called the "tulip tree," can easily attain a height of up to 120 feet. A native North American hardwood tree that produces a straight trunk that often measures up to 4 feet in diameter, the tree grows high into the sky with a narrow canopy of leaves. The straight trunk and rapid growth of the tree makes it popular for avenue planting in neighborhoods, along walkways and beside roads.
The deciduous foliage of the yellow poplar tree appears tulip shaped. Leaves measure up to 6 inches in diameter and produce four notched lobes. Long 6-inch petioles hold each leaf to the stem. The long petioles allow the leaves to spin in the breeze, which gives the tree's foliage a dancing appearance. The tree is available in a variegated form known as "Aureomarginatum."
Each spring the tree produces large yellow and orange blossoms. The flowers appear only on the upper branches of the tree, which makes them difficult to see. Pollination occurs from bees that favor the blossoms and swarm around them.
Seeds appear in narrow winged samara, which allow the wind to easily catch them and disperse them. The seeds appear in large clusters on the tree top. The seeds fall and spread from fall into winter. The tree grows native throughout the eastern and southern United States.
Seeds require a sunny location to germinate. They will thrive in a wide variety of soils, but they do prefer a moist soil location. Once established, the tree grows extremely fast. A poplar tree will attain 120 feet in height at only 50 years of age, according to Pennsylvania State University. The tree's rapid growth and exceptionally long trunk makes it prone to wind break.
The wood of the poplar tree is popular in furniture manufacturing and for toy production. The rapid growth of the tree and its exceptional vigor makes it a coveted timber tree because of its fast turnaround.
Aphids often appear in large colonies on the poplar tree. They do little damage to the tree, but a heavy infestation can create a black sooty mold because the aphids secrete a substance known as "honeydew" while feeding, which easily grows mold, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The substance creates an unsightly mess around, under and on the tree. It also attracts ants to the area. Aphids are controlled either by hosing the tree off with water or by applying an insecticide.