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POPLAR

Liriodendron tulipifera

Liriodendron tulipifera of the family Magnoliaceae (the magnolia family)

NOTE: the wood on this page is NOT actually "poplar", it is American tulip / "yellow poplar" / "tulip poplar". In putting this wood here with this name, I am following poplar usage. See the box below for a further discussion. To see, on this site, the wood that acutally IS poplar, see "cottonwood".
A note on the confusion among the names "cottonwood" / "poplar" / "tulip poplar" / "yellow poplar" / "American tulip"

When people in the USA say "poplar" they PROBABLY mean "tulip poplar" / "yellow poplar" which is NOT actually poplar at all even though the common name designates it as poplar. True poplar (what should, to avoid confusion, be called cottonwood) is Populus spp. of the family Salicaceae) but some people DO call cottonwood by the name "poplar" despite the confusion so it is sometimes hard to tell which one a person is talking about, especially since some people are not aware of the confusion.

"Tulip poplar", "yellow poplar", and "American tulip" are all names for Liriodendron tulipifera of the family Magnoliaceae. "yellow poplar" and "tulip poplar" are most the most commonly used names for Liriodendron tulipifera in the USA, AFTER the use of "poplar" itself, which is the MOST common designation for Liriodendron tulipifera even though, strictly speaking, that's the wrong designation. On this site, I list Liriodendron tulipifera as "poplar", following common useage, and I list the ACTUAL poplar as "cottonwood"

I personally think that the most logical thing to do would be to call Populus spp. "poplar" and Liriodendron tulipifera "tulip/tulipwood" (or "American tulip" to avoid confusion with Brazilian tulipwood) but as always, I don't get to make the rules, I just try to report on reality as accurately as I can.

To add to the confusion, one of the USA common names for Liriodendron tulipifera is "basswood" but the name "basswood" in the USA more commonly refers to Tilia spp. (which is also called "lime" and "lindon"). FURTHER, another USA common name for Liriodendron tulipifera is canary/canarywood, but those names more often refer, in the USA, to the South American wood Centrolobium spp.). Then just to make it all more interesting, many of the Populus species that are the wood normally called "aspen" ALL also have the names poplar and/or cottonwood or both as part of one or more of their other common names.

I COULD continue this trail of confusion until you felt that your eyeballs had been twisted into a knot, but I will spare you. This is the joy of common wood names.

In addition to the confusion among names, the woods called cottonwood and the woods called poplar, even though totally unrelated (other than both being woods) are often very hard to tell apart, even including the end grain.

This is a relatively soft wood and is very widely used in the hidden parts of furniture because it is very stable, easy to work with an inexpensive to obtain.

It takes on mineral stain more that any other wood I am aware of. See, particuarly, "rainbow poplar" shown below.



my samples: --- color is accurate on all unless noted


sample plank and end grain sold to me as yellow poplar / Liriodendron tulipfera --- pics are just a bit too green and in particular the cream-colored part is shown as having a green tint which it does not really have


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of yellow poplar / Liriodendron tulipifera --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of yellow poplar / Liriodendron tulipfera --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


flat cut plank --- both levels of enlargment are present


planks, all with some degree of green mineral stain --- both levels of enlargment are present


misc planks all shot at a lumber yard --- both levels of enlargment are present


more planks shot at a lumber yard --- very large enlargements are available for both


planks shot at LOWES at various times --- very large enlargements are available for all of them


planks shot at Lowes and a closeup --- the bubble appearance of the surface in the 2nd enlargement of the closeup is NOT a wood figure, it is tiny bits of wood brought up by the planer; this is a VERY big enlargment!


flat cut plank with mineral stain, and a closeup


two planks with green mineral stain and a closeup of the pair


planks shot at a lumber yard to show the green color --- the 2nd and 3rd shots are two ends of the same long flat cut plank. The green in these pics may appear to be exaggerated. It is not (although it was taken with a flash).


yellow poplar sample plank and end grain


end grain closeup of the sample plank directly above


plank and end grain


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


plank and end grain


end grain closeup (upside down) and END GRAIN UPDATE of the piece directly above


small bowl blank and end grain closeup


both sides of a plank I specifically selected for the green color (the pics are a little too orange) --- enlargements are there and the pic on the right shows a particularly good view of the grain


more planks, also with some green --- these are tulip poplar


green mineral stain in a tulip poplar plank shot at a lumber yard


lumber yard shot of tulip poplar planks, showing how common it is to find various mineral stain in this wood, especially the green colored stain.


both sides of a tulip poplar plank that I picked up at a lumber yard because of the deep green color --- shown here with a piece of purpleheart above it and a piece of canary wood below it just to show how accurate the color is.


closeup of the piece directly above


clear veneer with no green


a darker piece of veneer with some green at one edge and a very fuzzy demarcation between the green and the white


a very common type of poplar veneer (planks look like this too, for that matter), with a portion that is a generally uniform green. These pieces have a pretty clear demaraction between the green and white, but that isn't always the case.


a wide piece of veneer with green running through the middle


poplar veneer --- totally green sections cut from wider sheets that included white and brown areas


veneer sheet and closeup --- color is accurate


I have been told by a correspondant that green poplar doesn't stay green very long. That had not been my experience, so I did a controlled experiment here and the first of these is the control shot (a small plank of light green poplar and a veneer sheet with darker green) and the 2nd pic shows them after a month's exposure to direct sunlight (for several hours a day) on the right side only. As you can see, it most certainly DOES turn brown after some exposre. To see the complete series, click here: green poplar exposure series


yellow poplar veneer --- this is distinctly more yellow than normal poplar (but it is NOT a bright banana yellow --- the color shown here is accurate)


poplar veneer with some curl showing --- it is just slightly more pronounced than what shows up in this pic

NOTE: the color range on poplar is large, with many shades of cream, brown and green exising in the same plank. To give some indication of this range, I've included here a variety of shots from a large veneer selection. Totally cream and totally green sections are well covered above, so here I've concentrated on brown and mixed green-brown




burl veneer


a really amazing form of poplar known, for the obvious reason, as "rainbow" poplar, sent to me by Dave Kisker, whom I thank for the contribution. This was obtained from B&B Rare Woods, who report that the last time they saw any of it prior to this batch was in the 1970's, so I assume it's pretty rare. The purple color doesn't show up quite right (it's a little too dark) on the whole piece when I corrected the color so that everything else is quite accurate, so I took a separate copy of just the purple part and corrected it.

There are some web pics down below from the same vendor, kindly sent to me by a correspondant. Also, note that someone (I can no longer remember who) told me that the color does not hold up well in this variety, and that the same is true of green poplar.


a rainbow poplar plank that Milton Schmidt, whom I thank for the contribution, was fortunate enough to find at a local store for the regular poplar price. He's made a segmented turning, shown at the bottom of this page, that really emphasizes the color variations in this form of poplar



both sides and both ends of a sample piece of rainbow poplar --- the overall dark cast of this piece supports the contention that this wood darkens with age.


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


plank (and a closeup) chosen for the strong green color and the purple stain. This one doesn't have enough color variety to make it to the "rainbow" designation, but it is the same kind of mineral stain.


another area of the same plank (and a closeup) as directly above --- on this end of the plank, the green had turned lighter as you can see


planks and closeup


planks and closeup --- the mineral stains are of the type that create "rainbow" poplar but in this case they have not gotten variagated, just a single color in each plank


both sides of a small plank that has mineral stain (cut from the middle one above)


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


planks and closeup


plank and end grain --- this is a small piece cut from one that had a pretty uniform light green color that is captured accurately here.


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


burl veneer submitted by Neal Kuwabara who rightly points out that my mystery wood #103 looks almost exactly like this. I find the purple tint very unlikely and forgot to ask Neal about it.


The Wood Book pics


flat cut (this is a bit weird-looking for flat cut yellow poplar), quartersawn, end grain
yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera, also listed as tulip-tree, whitewood, and canoe-wood) from The Wood Book --- enlargement available for each of the 3 views



web pics:


flat cut, quartersawn, and end grain


planks with wet and dry sections; the first two are flat cut and the last one, listed as whitewood / Liriodendron tulipifera, is rift cut.


planks


plank listed as American poplar (which is what they call tulip poplar in Europe)


plank listed as Italian black poplar (which, if correctly labled, is Populus deltoides)


bowl blanks


turning stock


burl --- I am familiar with "mappa" burl, which comes from the black poplar tree, but this is the first I've seen of any other burl attributed to poplar.


veneer with some green


veneer


"turtleback" veneer --- I've never seen anything like this myself, I just present it here as I found it.


all labled yellow poplar, the first three being planks and the last being veneer, but the color in the first three looks much too golden in my admittedly limited experience (and the veneer doesn't look quite yellow ENOUGH to me)
"gray" poplar veneer


spalted poplar


bookmatched burl with very suspect color


bowls


yellow poplar bowl


tulip poplar bowls turned and photographed by Tom Pleatman, whom I thank for these pics and other contributions to the site. Big enlargements are present.


bowl listed as a tulip poplar root burl


heart-shaped paddle, created by Dave Bush (thanks for the pic Dave) who reports that this "angel-step" type figure was only present in a few small planks and he's never seen it since. This paddle is about 6"x10".


door





bowl (there is a slight chance that this is cottonwood, not tulip poplar)


segmented turning of rainbow poplar (the base is black ash, but ALL of the other segments are poplar and all are from the same plank --- part of the point of this object was to show the color variation within the plank) contributed by Milton Schmidt (the plank he made it from is pictured up with my rainbow poplar pics).




RAINBOW POPLAR



rainbowl poplar, flat cut and end grain


rainbow poplar veneer --- fairly rare and I've been told it doesn't hold the colors well at all, but I don't know from first hand experience whether this is true or not




rainbow poplar bowl blanks


turning stock


planks that were listed just as having a mineral stain, but this is the kind of stain that produces what is called rainbow poplar


more "rainbow" poplar (mineral stain)


slab with pith flaw and the kind of mineral stain that makes rainbow poplar, although not as much color as some




bowls


top and bottom of a bowl

end rainbowl popar