Arbor Month, No Foolin’

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.

IMG_2799    IMG_2805

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.

IMG_2812    IMG_2810


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

  • 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.

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7 Responses to Arbor Month, No Foolin’

  1. Julie Fukuda says:

    I have known these trees throughout all my life. We have some big ones here in Tokyo too. I don’t think I have ever seen one of this size though. I like the idea of a “heritage tree”. I have seen very old large trees in neighborhoods where we have lived and some contain signs noting them of some historical link. Sometimes they do get moved to new locations when streets have to be widened. (The Japanese are very good at moving old trees) but often they are just cut down to accommodate a new building. The red pine remaining after the tsunami has gotten great publicity but died anyway. It is being preserved and new seedlings grown but all a bit late.

  2. Oh that Liriodendron on 15th always captures my attention when I’m waiting for the signal to change. So beautiful!

    One of my neighbors planted a pair in their hell-strip a couple of years ago (with Friends of Trees). They are very close to a couple of huge old conifers. I don’t see how they’ll have space for all of them 20 or so yrs from now.

  3. Jane Glazer used to write a feature on specific Portland heritage trees every quarter in “Tree Connections, the old Friends of Trees print newsletter. Your blog makes me think of them. Don’t know if you can get access to any of them. Jane’s articles ran from about 1994 through 1997 as I recall.

  4. Oh wow — just saw this nice tulip tree post on Loree’s Danger Garen blog — nice to see the blooms and the foliage!

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