The lumbermen's yellow-poplar is not a true poplar, and therefore, the name is hyphenated. Purists prefer to call it tuliptree. Its Latin binomial, Liriodendron tulipifera, means tulip-bearing lily tree, hardly appropriate for a species related to neither tulips nor lilies. Only in China is there one other species of the genus Liriodendron.
Yellow-poplar requires full sunlight and an adequate seed source for its regeneration. The species does not enter ecological succession in the shade of an overstory, including its own. One of the most economically valuable trees within its range, it grows tall, straight, and fast in dense, even-aged stands that exhibit colorful foliage in the autumn. With selection harvests, slower growing and shade-tolerant uneven-aged oak and hickory stands likely follow.
Yellow-poplar attains the greatest height, and possibly the largest diameter, of any American hardwood tree except live oak. Found in the Piedmont province and as an important component in the Appalachian Mountain forests, it demands deep, fertile, well-drained but moist loamy soils. Established stands play out early in lighter sandy or heavier clay soils, especially on drier southwesterly slopes. The tree grows especially well when planted in the Cumberland Plateau and in East Texas where a forester a generation past planted a seedling in the yard of every home in a neighborhood. After 20 years many of those stems exceeded 24 inches in diameter and had a merchantable height of three 16-foot logs.
On favorable mesic sites, trees often exceed 10 feet in height in 2 years. A 22-year-old stand originating from seed in Georgia had produced 4000 board feet, the stems averaging over 10 inches dbh and containing twice the volume of a loblolly pine stand on a similar site. One-half-inch annual diameter growth and 2 feet per year height growth are typical for the species for its first 50 years on good sites^5
Early succession in the Southern Appalachians depends upon size of openings in a yellow-poplar forest. Openings greater than several acres have a rich species mix in contrast to smaller patches. Often, the nitrogen-fixing legume, black locust, becomes a significant component in the larger openings. There, because of the greater amount of sunlight reaching the forest floor, biomass production is severalfold greater in stands of yellow-poplar.16
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