Yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) shares the family tree with magnolia. But because of its relatively softwood, a trait that resembles the true poplars like eastern cottonwood and the aspens, it long ago gained association with these trees.
Growing to its greatest size in the southern Appalachian Mountains, yellow poplar reaches heights of 150' and diameters greater than 8'. Frequently, these forest trees will be clear of branches for the first 80' to 100'!
In its range, yellow poplar prefers to grow singly among pines and other hardwoods, rather than in pure stands. But you'll have little trouble recognizing this tree. The sometimes 2"-thick, gray-brown bark of mature trees has deep furrows between its ridges. Summer brings yellow poplar's greenish-yellow, tuliplike blooms among the tree's glossy, saddle-shaped leaves. In winter, yellow poplar's inedible, conical fruit remains on its branches.
At about 28 pounds per cubic foot dry, the wood of yellow poplar weighs two-thirds as much as black walnut. It's also about half as strong and hard. However, the medium-textured wood is straight-grained.
Although the yellow poplar sapwood has a creamy tone, its heartwood ranges in color from tan to gold, often with streaks of blue, gray, and purple. These highlights make up for the wood's otherwise plain grain.
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