Thursday, April 8, 2010


Contributing Writer - Holli Howard, Director of Geographic Resources
Ongoing Series - Trees of Note

The front yard of my building faces 16th Street NW and is one of the many ‘public parking’ spaces on this main thoroughfare fortunate enough to have a large tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) in it.

What makes the tulip poplar in my front yard interesting is that it was originally a street tree and was planted in the 1870's by the Department of Public Works under the District's second and last Governor, Alexander Shepherd.

In 1993, the National Park Service produced the Historic American Buildings Survey of Sixteenth Street, and found that a scheme of tulip poplars were planted the entire length of 16th Street.
"After the territorial government fell in 1874, its responsibilities were turned over to a board of commissioners, which published a map in 1880 showing street-tree species throughout the city. The map indicates that Sixteenth Street was lined with poplars; today's Sixteenth Street still has evidence of these poplars, but instead of being planted in the strips between the sidewalk and roadway, the several old specimens that remain are planted between the sidewalk and the building lines within the front yards of the facing residences. The trees appear to predate many of the homes built along the road, which feature fences and front walks consciously diverted around their trunks."
While the tulip poplar in my yard is not the largest in the City, its history makes it worthy of being my Tree of Note. I encourage you to drive along 16th Street to enjoy all the tulip poplars that line the length of it and then visit the District's largest one located in Georgetown's Montrose Park (61" diameter).

I also admire the tulip poplar for providing great environmental benefits for the City.

In 2009, Casey Trees completed its second iTree Eco Inventory based on the Urban Forest Effects Model. According to the results produced by Dr. Dave Nowak's team at the Forest Service Northern Research Station, the tulip poplar is the third most prevalent tree species in DC and has the highest percent leaf area. Because leaf area equates directly to the benefits a tree provides, the tulip poplar is the second highest in Importance Value. Additionally, the tulip poplar stores approximately 15 percent of the total carbon stored in Washington and 11 percent of the total sequestered carbon.

I was also able to calculate the economic benefits of the tulip poplar tree in front of my building. Using the Tree Benefits Calculator on the Casey Trees website, I determined that we receive $178 in benefits annually. Not too bad.


Tulip Poplar 101:

Location - eastern and southeast portions of the United States
Crown - narrow, oval
Height - 80' - 100'
Foliage - 6" long and wide, alternate and heart-shaped
Color - bright green leaves that turn a butter yellow in fall
Flowers - pale green, yellow flowers beginning in April
Bark - smooth, light ashy-gray with shallow longitudinal, whitish furrows when young; thick, interlacing furrows and rounded ridges with age
Landscape uses - desirable street or shade tree

Nominate a Tree of Note! All individuals that nominate a Tree of Note by Arbor Day on Friday, April 30, 2010 will be entered to win a signed copy of City of Trees by Melanie Choukas-Bradley. All Trees of Note can be found on the Casey Trees Map.

No comments: