Arbor Day is April 20, except in Portland I’ve recently learned, we are observing Arbor Month. “Why limit a tree celebration to one day when it could last a whole month?” Good question. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything in observance of Arbor Day — my thinking is along the same lines as above. Why only one day for trees? Each and every day can be about trees for some of us. But I’m all for promoting trees in our community, so I’m looking forward to April this year.
The focus for Arbor Month is to highlight Heritage Trees. Participants are invited to take a photo of themselves at one of Portland’s 300 Heritage trees and post it to the Portland Parks & Recreation Tree Stewards Facebook page. (I see some enthusiastic folks already posted their shots in March.) Select your tree using this handy map.
I’ve chosen an awe-inspiring Heritage Tree that never fails to get my attention located at the NW corner of NE Weidler and NE 15th Avenue, a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera. The Google map tag tells us these particulars on the tree:
- Tree # 3
- Height 72 ft
- Spread 65 ft
- Circumference 15.5 ft
Not surprising to find this tree mentioned and pictured in Trees of Greater Portland。 From the book, I learned this is the largest specimen in the metropolitan area, planted in the 1890s by George Nicolai. Tulip trees are in the Magnolia family, native to the eastern U.S., and can reach 200 feet. I’ve heard that organ builders make organ pipes from the wood of this tree.
This tree is truly deserving of it’s status as a Heritage tree, which are defined as trees “because of their age, size, type, historical association or horticultural value, are of special importance to the City.” It is a defining feature of this road intersection. Liriodendron have a beautiful strongly upright and pyramidal habit, but trees of this age exhibit a more open form. This is the only specimen I’ve ever encountered with weeping branches.
Here’s the winter silhouette from standing underneath. Cables anchored to the ground support this mammoth tree.
Urban trees such as this merit special appreciation in parks and other public areas as they would be out of scale for most residential settings. Maybe I’ll visit a few more Heritage Trees this month. Studying the map, I see at least one more, also a Liriodendron, walking distance from my home…
If you want to plant a tulip tree in your yard, I hope you have a lot of space. Here’s what I found on plantlust.com:
- 50 to 90 feet tall 25 to 40 feet wide
- USDA Zones 4a to 10b
- Plant in sun to part shade
- Yellow-green flowers in June
- Yellow fall foliage
For more info and photos, see Oregon State University’s Plant List.