If you’ve never met a Tulip tree before, have a close look at this tree to find clues about why it’s called this before reading on.
This is one of many young Tulip Trees planted throughout the city in the past couple of years. When people started realizing the extent to which the trees planted on city streets turn up in wild and rewilding spaces, cities began trying to favour native tree species in their planting. But those species had not been commercially important and saplings were in short supply, so it’s taken ten or fifteen years for Tulip Trees and other rare native species to start making it into front yards in a big way. Tulipers have become one of the main beneficiaries of the movement away from planting lots of Norway Maples.
Tulip Trees are fast growers – this little one could double in height in the next five years if it likes this spot. In the rare places in Ontario where they occur in the wild, they rival White Pines as the tallest tree in the forest. Their quick growing ways make them rewarding trees for city planting. As well, since Tulipers are more common further south, increasing their population here may be a way of adapting to climate change.
Down in Virginia and Kentucky, Tulip Trees are called Yellow Poplars, because they have similar habits to that fast-growing, sun-loving, edge-thriving family. Although they are actually in the Magnolia family, we wonder if these traits will lead to us seeing Tulip trees sprouting up in surprising places in years to come.
(Look for blooms of yellow and orange tulips in mid June!)
Although a young Tulip Tree in the wild might double in height within five years, we learned recently that most Tulip Trees planted in the city are the crowns of more mature trees grafted to a different rootstock. This is done so that the trees will flower the same year they are planted, instead of impatient home-owners needing to wait for the tree to grow up, while still being a manageable size for transplanting. The result is a tree with beautiful flowers but that tends to stay small.