We have a large number of poplar trees in the wooded areas of the park, near the beaver dam/pond you will see several of the large poplar trees. In this area you can see where the beavers have completely chewed the bark off around the trunk.

Tulip Poplar

Liriodendron tulipifera.


Text is part of a story on Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives  web site to read the entire story go to: www.kdla.ky.gov/resources/kytree.htm

About the Tulip Poplar

The controversy over Kentucky's state tree brewed for more than 40 years before being decided in 1994, with the selection of the Yellow Poplar, a.k.a. Tulip Tree or Tulip Poplar, or in botanical books Liriodendron tulipifera.

Not an actual poplar, the Tulip Poplar is a member of the magnolia family. Its name is derived from the greenish-yellow tulip-like flowers the tree produces in the spring, usually in May. (Also, the leaves look like silhouettes of a tulip -- although most say that has nothing to do with its name.) The flowers' petals fall shortly after blooming, leaving behind cone-shaped clusters of winged seeds that ripen in the fall and drift away. The seeds are eaten by various types of birds and small animals, but aren't great favorites of any, except possibly cardinals. Once the seeds are blown away or devoured, the cones remain throughout the winter.

Tulip Poplars are rapid-growing and long-lived. They grow straight and are tall, averaging about 100 feet. The tallest living Tulip Poplar, according to the National Register of Big Trees, is located in Bedford, Virginia at 111 feet high, with a trunk over 31 feet around. The trunks of the Tulip Poplar are stout with gray furrowed bark. A Tulip Poplar's age can be estimated from the density, darkness of color, and amount of furrows in the bark. The oldest living Tulip Poplar, located in New York, is approximately 225 years old.

In Kentucky, the Tulip Poplar prefers the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Tulip Poplars thrive in deep, moist soils along streams and in mountain coves. They need full sunlight to grow and develop; in dense woods, newly-germinated seedlings will survive only a few weeks. Instead, stands of Tulip Poplars are usually established in abandoned fields by wind-borne seeds.

The Tulip Poplar vs. The Kentucky Coffee Tree

The first state tree, although unofficial, was the Tulip Poplar. In 1956, the tree was designated the official state tree during a session of the Kentucky Legislature. However, due to clerical oversight, the bill was not properly recorded in the state's statutes as passed legislation. Attempts to complete the formal adoption of the Tulip Poplar led to a declaration that it never was officiated as a state symbol. Even so, the error was not discovered until 1973, after references to Kentucky's state tree had been printed in countless reference books and encyclopedias across the nation and around the world.

In 1973, the General Assembly was asked to designate an "official" state tree. Joe Creason, a columnist for the Louisville Courier Journal, began a tongue-in-cheek campaign advocating the choice of the Kentucky Coffee Tree as one of the state's symbols. Creason's initial take at humor soon became the origin of a hot political debate, which many, including Creason, began to take seriously.

Historians were again called in. Research began on the implications the tree had on the history of Kentucky. Because of their size, Tulip Poplars were hollowed out for canoes or dugouts. Originally, "canoe," meant a boat made by hollowing out a large light log. When Daniel Boone left Kentucky after his failed bartering attempt for land grants for his sponsor, the Transylvania Company, he packed his possessions and family into a 50 or 60 foot long tulip tree canoe and headed down the Ohio River. Settlers also used the vast trunks, at that time sometimes 10 feet in diameter, as hideouts from Indians. Also, the wood of the tulip tree was light and easily worked. Pioneers often used it for furniture and log cabins. In 1812, settlers making saltpeter for use in gunpowder used tulip tree pipes and troughs to carry nitrate-laden water to evaporating pans in Mammoth Cave. These can still be found there.

A bill to return the tulip poplar as Kentucky's official tree passed Kentucky's Senate on February 25, 1994 and was signed by the governor. (KRS 2.095) The fact that the Tulip Poplar is the fastest growing and most adaptive tree in the state's forests was cited as one reason for the change. State Senator Virgil Moore also commented that his forefathers crossed the Cumberland Gap and built their homes with poplars.