Thursday, November 01, 2007

Puzzle of the Mystery Tree - Solved!

This fall has been a truly terrific fall foliage season. The colors of the leaves are every bit as vibrant and glorious as those I remember from New England.

What's more, I live in the middle of a huge arboretum and never really realized it until I started making regular rounds to pick up leaves for my embossed paper cards. My favorites are the ginkgo, the heart shaped leaves from the redbud trees, the rounded leaf white oaks, and my new favorite - a tree that produces one of the funkiest leaves I've seen.

I had collected some of the leaves before for my papermaking without knowing what type of tree they were from. I didn't really care too much... until the other day when Mr. Field Notes drew my eye to the tree's unique seed pod. That piqued my interest.

The seeds radiate out from a central stamen-like structure making the whole pod look a bit like a flower. But that's not where the tree's name comes from. It produces yellowish-orange flowers that look like tulips.

I used a website to help me identify the tree it comes from based on just the leaf, but that was a bit tricky because the tree is evidently rare enough to not make the list of the tree I.D. tools that appear on the first page of google.

After a diligent search, I discovered my mystery tree is a tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera).

It's the largest member of the magnolia family, but it is also called a yellow poplar. Go figure. It's native to the eastern part of the country. I've found a few of these trees growing here, and judging by the size of the ones I found, they've probably been growing here for as long as the town has existed.

Mr. Field Notes wanted to plant some seeds in our front yard when he learned more about the tuliptree, but then we found out the soil condition in our front yard is not at all likely to sustain it even if the seeds succeeded in germinating. So, instead, I am going to experiment with making them in to paper!

But first I am forcing myself to revamp my behemoth of a dissertation into two short articles.
Believe me, I'd rather be making paper...

This is the mini-card I made last week (you can see part of the seed pod in the upper right hand corner of the photo):

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