Within the state of South Carolina, there are several species of trees called poplar. These include the tulip, white, Lombardy and eastern poplars. Poplars of different species make excellent landscape trees, each possessing characteristics that set them apart from one another, ranging from the tall and stately Lombardy poplar to the massive eastern poplar.
Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), also referred to as the tuliptree and yellow poplar, is found in South Carolina and grows to approximately 100 feet tall and remained relatively narrow spreading to about 50 feet in width. The name tulip poplar derived from the scented, tulip-like flowers that bloom in spring. The four-lobed leaves are 4 and 8 inches in length and width, green in color during the growing season, and bright yellow in fall. The crown of the tree is relatively oval, with coarse texture and moderate density. The trunk of the tree is straight, covered with dark, deeply furrowed bark and grows massive with age.
White poplar (Populus alba) is found in most of the United States, including South Carolina, although it is not native to North America. It grows to 100 feet tall and can spread to 60 feet across. The large leaves of the tree have a maple-leaf appearance with five distinct lobes. The leaves are dark green, changing to yellow as the growing season closes. The form of the tree is oval with an irregular outline and coarse texture. White poplar is a fast-growing tree, has a high drought tolerance and is easily adaptable to a wide variety of soil and climatic conditions.
Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra) has a striking, vertical, column-like appearance. The tree can reach to 60 feet in height, but generally only reaches 10 to 12 feet in width. Branches grow from the very bottom of the tree's relatively narrow trunk to the top and extend upward rather than outward, giving the tree the form of an elongated pyramid or diamond. The leaves are oval shaped, tapering to a point and serrated along the edges. The color of the leaves is green, turning bright yellow in the fall. Lombardy poplars are very fast-growing and are popular landscape trees, planted in rows along roadways and as a screen along property borders.
Also known as the eastern cottonwood, eastern poplar (Populus deltoides) is indigenous to United States, including South Carolina. The tree can reach to 100 feet and can become massive, with trunks reaching up to 4 feet in diameter. The leaves are triangular, coming to a sharp point. Each leaf is between 3 and 5 inches long and nearly as wide. The leaves are dark green on the surface and lighter underneath with a slightly fuzzy feel. The margins of the leaf are serrated. The leaves turn yellow in the fall. The bark of young trees greenish gray and smooth. Older trunks appear light gray and are deeply furrowed. As a fast-growing tree, it is frequently used in landscaping for shade and in recreational areas and residential settings. Eastern poplar is a short-lived tree and seldom reaches an age of greater than 80 years.