Yellow poplar is a tree with many nicknames like tuliptree, tulip poplar or whitewood. The names can confuse you, as the tree is not a poplar and not a relation to the tulip flower. It is part of the magnolia family and one of the most “stately” trees in the eastern forests, says the Floridata website. It has many unique features that make it one of the more attractive landscaping trees, if you have room to grow it.
The yellow poplar is a tree that, with little effort, grows between 70 and 90 feet high. Much taller trees of this species occur in its geographic range, with some specimens measured at over 150 feet. This makes the yellow poplar one of the east’s tallest trees. The yellow poplar has very large flowers for a tree from its part of the nation, with the blooms growing as long as 3 inches in some cases. Unfortunately, for those who want to get good looks at these flowers, they often only emerge in the upper portions of the canopy.
The yellow poplar grows from Connecticut and far Western Massachusetts down the East Coast into central sections of Florida. The geographic range goes westward from Florida into parts of Louisiana and then extends north to parts of Michigan. The yellow poplar, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website, grows in settings such as damp forests, the very edges of meadows and slopes where water drains downward.
Two features of the yellow poplar give it the nickname “tuliptree”, with one being the flowers and the other being its leaves. The flowers look like tulips, with the same cup shape, but are green-yellow on the outside part of the petals and green-orange on the inside portion. The leaves appear is if someone took the time to cut them out in the shape of a tulip’s silhouette and paste them onto the tree. They are between 5 and 8 inches long and grow on long stems, which enable the breeze to make them sway rapidly back and forth in the wind, like a poplar tree’s leaves do.
The cultivars of the yellow poplar that exist for your landscaping needs do not grow as tall, which makes them a bit more practical since everybody does not have room for a tree that could potentially grow to 150 feet high. The “Aureomarginatum” has variegated leaves of cream and green and it grows to be around 80 feet under the right conditions. “Fastigiatum” is tough to find on the market but this hybrid grows to be 60 feet tall and is more compact, with a canopy only 20 feet in width. The cultivar called “Ardis”, along with “Compactum”, has leaves and flowers that are smaller than the typical yellow poplar and they stay at a height that make them an option for people that lack the room for a huge tree.
The flowers emerge on a yellow poplar in the South in the spring but not until summer on those planted in the North. The size of the tree may discourage you from using it as a landscaping plant but this does not stop golf courses, campuses of universities and hospitals from employing it to brighten up their grounds. Some of the problems a yellow poplar faces are attacks from insect pests such as the tulip tree scale and various aphids, although gypsy moth caterpillars leave it alone.