16 May 2008

Liriodendron tulipifera: a good place for snails


One of the most common and easily identifiable trees in the forests of the northeast U.S. is the tulip poplar (also called yellow poplar or tulip tree), thanks to the characteristic shape of its leaves. In late spring, the equally unique, large flowers of the tree can often be seen on the ground, especially after rain storms when the flowers and small branches are easily broken off.


Liriodendron tulipifera is neither a tulip nor a poplar, but a member of the magnolia family (Magnoliaceae). According to my tree book (C.F. Brockman, Trees of North America, 1968), the range of the tulip poplar extends from northern Florida to southern Canada. Tulip poplar trees can grow quite large. Here is a picture of me next to an enormous one at Belt Woods.

What makes this tree a favorite of mine is their tendency to develop large cavities at the bases of their trunks. The rotting wood that eventually develops inside the cavity provides food and the cavity itself provides shelter for land snails. Consequently, the soil from such cavities usually yields many specimens.

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