Page 8 - May 24, 2023
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  MAY 24, 2023                                                                                                                                                                                                                                MAY 24, 2023  |  { 9 }

                        Towering Sentinel
                        Towering Sentinel

                     The fast-growing tulip poplar easily dwarfs neighboring structures
                                          as it provides a shady retreat.

     NATURE AROUND US                                                     by J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River
              atching over one of Millville’s
              hubs of creative undertakings
     Wis a stately sentinel; its impos-
     ing presence is familiar to all who visit.
     In May it blossoms with greenish-yellow
     and orange epaulets that command one’s
     attention. Its impressive 100-foot height
     and 75-foot spread has it towering over
     the hill upon which it sprouted as a sap-
     ling. It dwarfs the Barn Studio that houses
     the Maurice River School of Art and its
     students. The hill is part of land owned by
     artist laureate Pat Witt, who welcomes all
     who visit. However, when it comes to pro-
     tecting the tuliptree her rule is a steadfast
     “Look but don’t touch.” She would prob-
     ably be the first to tell you that you really
     can’t own a tree, you can only appreciate it.
        Whenever I have attended Barn Day in
     the spring, invariably one of the young art
     students will warn me to keep a safe dis-                                                                     Tuliptree is a host plant of the Tiger Swallow-
     tance from the tree. I know exactly where                                                                     tail butterfly. The Tiger Swallowtail’s various
     this respect comes from, and I smile at the                                                                   instars (molts) have an appearance that acts
                                                                                                                   to fool predators.The fifth and final instar,
     mental image of Pat teaching the young                                                                        pictured here, is shaded in a dark green on top
     aspiring artists a lifelong veneration for                                                                    and lighter green on the sides and posterior
     trees.                                                                                                        end, allowing it to camouflage itself better
        The tuliptree’s scientific appellation                                                                     against foliage.
     is Liriodendron tulipifera, but its common
     names are many: tuliptree, tulip poplar,
     tulip magnolia, whitewood, yellow poplar,                                                                     native Cherokee used the wood for canoes
     and canoewood. It is native to the eastern                                                                    and medicinal purposes. Miners secured
     third of North America and is New Jersey’s                                                                    mine shafts with tulip poplar timbers.
     tallest and likely fastest-growing tree,                                                                      Today it is still valued for furniture because
     reaching heights of 200 feet although more                                                                    it has a fine grain and is a stable hardwood.
     commonly closer to 100 feet. In fact I often                                                                  Its coloration is variable, including cream,
     tell people in their 50s and older that if                                                                    yellow, green, brown, and even purple
     they want to see a sapling reach tree status,   The straight trunk of massive tuliptrees have made them attractive for a great many uses.   hues, such that when staining, uniformity
     they ought to plant a tulip poplar.                          ALL PHOTOS BY THE AUTHOR                         is difficult to achieve. Therefore it is pri-
        The leaves of this deciduous tree are                                                                      marily utilized in portions of the furniture
     distributed alternately on the branch, as   within mixed woodland. If you want to see   from the fact that the flowers are tulip-like   that are not displayed—drawer liners, hid-
     opposed to opposite one another. Each is   some massive stands of tulip poplar, visit   in appearance. The fruit is a samara, or   den casework, or painted pieces. However
     squarely shaped with two to four lobes,   Susquehanna State Park near Havre de   winged seed. These are held together in   choice pieces have been used for veneers.
     shiny dark green on the upper side and   Grace, Maryland, where the 120-feet-plus   clusters that resemble a cone. The samara   Its pulpwood is also processed for paper
     a dull, lighter green beneath. In fall the   straight trunks masterfully line many road-  often stays on the tree through the winter,   production.
     leaves turn yellow. Together its broad   ways and extend into the forest.  persisting into late spring. These upright   As you may recall, each butterfly and
     leaves cast a massive swath of shade   I was prompted to write about our   features make the tree identifiable in   moth has evolved to be reliant on opti-
     beneath its often immense presence.   subject because currently the river is lined   winter. While the seeds are how the tree   mal food sources called host plants. The
        It grows extensively along the slopes   with poplars in full bloom, and many of   propagates, they are often not fertile.  tuliptree is a host plant for the following
     of waterways. Its roots seek moisture   them are great specimens that tower over   The tree’s straight trunk has made   moths: Tulip-Tree Beauty, Polyphemus,
     but it thrives best in moist drained soils   the shorelines. The name tuliptree derives   it especially useful in construction. The   Promethea, and Sweetbay Silkmoth. The
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