by David Venables, European Director, American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC)
Tulipwood and yellow poplar – two accepted commercial names for the same hardwood species (Liriodendron tulipifera).
If you know your trees and their Latin names you will spot straight away that this is not a true poplar (Populous spp.) Yellow poplar is the most widely used name for this hardwood in the USA, even though there are two indigenous poplars; aspen grown in the north and cottonwood found predominantly in the south. Everywhere else it is now more commonly known as “American tulipwood”, because as the Latin name suggests it has striking tulip shaped flowers.
How did this name change come about?
When the U.S. hardwood industry established the AHEC promotional campaign in Europe back in the late 1980’s it was important that tulipwood was not confused with poplar, widely grown and used in Europe.
Well, the most compelling reason is that it is a far superior timber to poplar in all aspects: colour, character, machining, finishing and strength. Over the years we have successfully marketed this species as a cost effective “all rounder” which is why it is now used in significant volumes by joinery and furniture industries all over the world.
As it comprises nearly 10% of the standing timber in U.S. hardwood forests, it has good sustainable credentials and long term availability, which in today’s environment, is the name of the game!