Poplar trees can easily reach a towering height of 200 feet with a 40-foot spread. The poplar tree is commonly called the tuliptree because of its tulip-shaped leaves. The tree is also referred to as the yellow poplar due to its striking yellow fall color. The tree is grown across the United States as a shade tree, windbreak, timber crop or ornamental specimen. One of the oldest living poplar trees in the United States is located in New York City. The tree is believed to be between 350 to 400 years old.
The poplar tree once grew wild in the eastern United States in abundance but has been heavily logged out for its wood. The tree was quite desirable due to its long, straight trunk and hardwood, which was often made into fence-posts or railroad ties. The tree is widely grown today on tree plantations for wood production to make furniture. Native Americans commonly used poplar tree parts to make tinctures and anti-inflammatory remedies. According to the Floral Genome Project, the early Americans called the poplar tree 'canoe wood' because they learned that Native Americans would use the tree's wood to construct canoes.
Poplar trees can be easily grown from seeds. Plant the seeds in a sunny location that is well drained in the fall. When spring arrives the seedlings will sprout up. The trees can grow in a wide range of soils but low nitrogen content can affect the rate of growth. The seeds must overwinter in order to germinate. Growth for the first year of the seedlings life averages 1 foot. When the seedlings reach 5 years of age, the average size is 10 to 18 feet.
The poplar tree produces a single flower that measures approximately 2 inches in diameter. Each flower contains six tiny petals that are yellow in color. Flower production occurs between 15 to 20 years of age and will continue until the tree reaches the age of 200. Flowers first appear in April to June and last for up to six weeks. Pollination must occur within 12 to 24 hours of the flower first opening its petals for seeds to be produced.
Seeds begin to appear on the poplar tree from August to October depending on what region of the United States the tree is planted within. Heavy rainfall tends to cause low seed production but seasons which are dry with high temperatures yield a high seed production. After the seeds fall from the tree they can remain viable for 4 to 7 years.
The poplar tree is highly resistant to pests. Only four species of pests currently do any damage to the tree. The tuliptree scale (Toumeyella liriodendri) can suck large amounts of sap from the tree. The yellow-poplar weevil (Odontopus calceatus) enjoys consuming the leaves and buds of the tree. The main threat posed by the weevil is that its feeding holes will present an access point for a pathogen to enter the tree. The rootcollar borer (Euzophera ostricolorella) enjoys feeding at the base of the tree and also poses a danger similar to the yellow-poplar weevil because the feeding holes can allow pathogens to enter the tree and cause damage. The Colombian timber beetle enjoys the wood of the poplar tree.
The beetles will not kill the tree, but can damage the wood by causing unsightly dark spots to materialize, which lowers the tree's value as a wood product.