“Nothing can surpass in beauty the form, or the glossy, vivid green of the leaves of the tulip-tree. … but their glory was altogether eclipsed by the gorgeous splendor of the profuse blossoms. Conceive, closely congregated, a million of the largest and most resplendent tulips!” Edgar Allen Poe
About this time each year in the Chesapeake watershed we are reminded to look up. Way up. There, high in the sky, are dozens upon dozens of tulips. (Well, that’s what we call them anyway.)
Isn’t it really rather remarkable? Giant trees, among the largest in eastern North America, with big, sunny flowers at the top of the forest canopy.
They remind us how easy it is to overlook the details of nature all around us. It took me twenty years and a college field botany course to even really notice tulip trees, not to mention learn their real name, Liriodendron tulipifera.
How is that possible? For a few short weeks they leave their signs everywhere. In forests, parks, neighborhoods. On streets and walking trails.
The giant tulip trees of our woodlands are one of only two remaining species in their genus. The other is in Asia. A Liriodendron of Europe apparently became extinct during periods of glaciation.
Those facts, and the range map shown here — actually all range maps — are reminders of the interconnectedness of landscapes, nature, and humanity. Which is, of course, what all of us work to conserve and sustain.