Written by Professor Charlie Belin

Observation © John P. Friel · some rights reserved

The Tulip Poplar (Lyriodendron tulipifera), or Yellow Poplar, is a species of tree found throughout the eastern portion of North America. The tulip poplar is a tall, deciduous tree that is hardy in our region of Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. It has a globular shape, grows to 60 to 90 feet tall (maximum of 150 feet) and 30 to 50 feet wide. It has large star-shaped leaves and flowers that have a yellow hue to them along with an orange throat. These trees need full sun, medium amounts of water, and require low maintenance. In addition to being an excellent shade tree for yards and gardens, it tolerates both deer and rabbits, clay soils, wet soils, and can even tolerate being near black walnut trees, something few other trees can tolerate. The tulip poplar is found in rich, moist soils, often near stream banks.

Uses: Perhaps the most frequent use of this species is as a shade tree in yards and gardens. Of particular interest is that this species will shade a gathering area at one residence in the summer and allow full sun in the winter when its leaves are no longer present. Because of the hydrostatic pressure created in the roots, this species is not recommended as a street tree. The wood of this tree has been used in the production of furniture, boats, toys, general lumber and the production of plywood.


Protection status: The tulip poplar has no protection status in North America.



Fun facts:

>While this tree is referred to as “poplar” or tulip, it has no relationship with either poplars or tulips. The tulip poplar is actually most closely related to the various magnolias in our area. 

>Native Americans used the trunks of tulip poplar in the making of dugout canoes. 

>This is the state tree of not only Tennessee, but also Kentucky and Indiana. 

>The genus name for this species comes from the Greek word “leirion,” meaning lily, and “dendron,” meaning tree, for the flowers. The species epithet, or second name, “tulipifera”, refers to the shape of the flowers, looking like a tulip. 

>The leaves of this species turn a brilliant, bright yellow in the autumn. It is nearly insect and disease free.



Charlie is a retired professor and Biological Oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia System for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.  

Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!


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Planting native helps restore the natural habitat required for beautiful birds, butterflies and other insects to thrive. Plus, native plants are supposed to be here, so they're often more tolerant of neglect, poor soil, and draught.

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: native plants

Why I give

By Lisa Lemza

"Change is hard."  It is dangerous; it invites failure — or fabulous new and different failures; it requires us to leave the cherished security of our cozy current state, even when that state is miserable .  And, it is the most inevitable and constant absolute of mortal life.

Change can be 'for the worse' of course.  The current desolation in our dynamic but beautiful and intricately balanced natural world indicates how very bad 'change' can be.

Change is uncomfortable.  It is scary, and more than occasionally outright terrifying. Some seek it eagerly; most of us resist kicking and screaming and are dragged into the future leaving claw marks.  But change also brings renewal, inspired leadership, creative collaboration, and the grace of yet another chance to get it right.

I believe that Reflection Riding's experiencing such a pivotal moment.  It is why I have given them my hard earned money. The gentle wisdom and sanctuary it has long offered seems now seems crackling with a different and vibrant energy, bringing  wider participation, more access, and clear advocacy. I especially appreciate its use of good science while healing the degraded natural systems in this regional treasure. I sense the lively shipyard energy of an ark being built, one dedicated to restoration, education, and the preservation of this good earth and its creatures.

Where will it end?  Well, let's see. This is why I give.

Ready to help?

Join, donate, volunteer.

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: giving tuesday

Wauhatchie Forest School, Tennessee’s first forest kindergarten program based in Chattanooga, Tenn., will expand its campus to include additional sites in 2019.

Beginning this fall, Wauhatchie School will continue to offer classes at its main campus at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lookout Lake in Lookout Valley, and will expand to include sites at the Chattanooga Audubon Society and Ivy Academy in the Chattanooga area.

“It's been so much fun working with Wauhatchie School as they grow their presence across Chattanooga,” says Mark McKnight, President of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. “As we establish Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center as a hub for environmental education and conservation, we want to see these ideas spread. We want environmental education and access to the outdoors to be expected for all kids rather than some oddity. From our Forest Kindergarten workshop last year to hosting the students on a daily basis, the energy that Wauhatchie has brought to the property has been phenomenal.”

Forest Kindergarten is based on the German concept of waldkindergarten, meaning “forest nursery,” and it is gaining popularity in the United States. Typically serving children ages 3 to 6 years, Forest Kindergarten takes place entirely outdoors, rain or shine. Teachers supervise students in their explorations and play, but do not lead.

Wauhatchie School is a dream come true for the school’s founder, Jean Lomino, an educator of 40-plus years with a doctorate in leadership with an emphasis in environmental education. 

According to Lomino, “Research shows that long-term exposure to the outdoors-particularly in one place-is the most effective way to develop a strong connection to nature. Studies have also shown that this kind of experience for children provides many important physical, social, emotional and academic benefits as well.”

Since its beginnings in 2015, Wauhatchie School has become a leader in forest school education. Lomino has been consulting with teachers at Gilbert Elementary in Lafayette, Georgia, to start the first public school Forest Kindergarten program in the country. She has also worked with Red Bank Elementary School’s Forest Kindergarten and outdoor education programs.  Over the past four years, over 90 teachers have trained at Wauhatchie School, and most went on to establish new Forest Kindergarten programs throughout the southeast.

In 2017, Lomino spent two months working with Forest Kindergarten teachers and consulting in Guangzhou, China.  Last spring a group of Chinese teachers from Jinan, as well as a teacher from Cape Town, South Africa, came to Wauhatchie School for training.

Lomino has also collaborated on research with the vice-chair of the Korean Forest Kindergarten Association and university professor, Dr. Jiyoun Shin. They studied character strength development in Forest Kindergarten with four Forest Kindergarten programs in the Chattanooga area.  They are currently writing the results of their research which will be presented this summer and authoring a Forest Kindergarten guidebook.

Open House events for parents are being held at all four locations this winter. For more information, visit www.Wauhatchie.org.

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: Forest School

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