Using Tulip Poplar on the Homestead

| 9/4/2019 10:55:00 AM

tulip poplar leaf from stump
Closeup of a large Tulip Poplar leaf, growing from the stump of a previously cut tree.

I am a firm believe that part of being a good steward for your homestead, farm, or even a backyard in town lies in being aware of the plants and animals that call the area home as well. When you learn to identify local trees and plants, it leads to awareness of the wildlife that consume or make their home amongst them. When you understand how all animals interact with nature around you, it can lead to a deeper appreciation for this beautiful planet and all who inhabit it.

On the Eastern side of United States, a common hardwood tree called the Yellow Poplar serves to benefit not only wildlife, but people as well. Yellow Poplar, also known as "Tulip Poplar", is not actually in the same family as other Poplar trees, and is however more closely related to the Magnolia family. Learning to identify this tree properly can be beneficial, as it makes for sometimes colorful lumber, a readily available woodworking source, and food for different species of animals.

Planting Tulip Poplar for Wildlife

Last Summer, I finally managed to catch a glimpse of the older doe that frequents the land with her young fawn. The fawn bounded away from her mother often, not too far out of sight, nibbling here and there on leaves. I made sure to pay particular attention to what each of them browsed on, and noted that the mother and weaned fawn were both mainly selecting shoots of Tulip Poplar that were growing from stumps of previously cleared small trees. Another benefit for wildlife is seen in the yellow and orange flowers, often visited by hummingbirds while in bloom, providing them a nectar source in the late Spring to early Summer.

Crafting Projects with Tulip Poplar

Depending on the resource you look as, it is generally not recommended that this particular wood is used in major building projects. This is mainly because trees harvested for old-growth heartwood have been found to have a resistance to decay, but most younger trees you encounter that are mainly sapwood do not have the same durability. However, the lumber is great for small woodworking projects while branches and smaller logs can also be used.

We frequently make simple walking sticks from small Tulip Poplar branches, or smaller cleared saplings, as it is easy to peel and they are quite lightweight when dried properly. We've also used saplings to put together very simple hide stretching frames, by connecting four long poles together with small notches and lashing or nailing them together to keep it from flexing too much. Wood slices cut from small branches also make for beautiful coasters and Christmas ornaments that are suitable for wood burning and painting after they've been sanded. Even the peeled bark makes for useful cordage, which I enjoy using to display our bone needles with.

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