Yellow Poplar isn't a Poplar?
Let's talk about Poplar...or Tulip Poplar...or Eastern Cottonwood...or White Poplar or Yellow Poplar or Quaking Aspen or (gasp) Tulipwood. No they are not all the same tree. Or are they? Today I talk about the Populus genus and that upstart wannabe from the Magnolia family Liriodendron tulipfera. If you didn't already think I am a nerd, this episode will convince you.
Yellow Poplar doesn't get the respect it deserves in my opinion. I build with it often and not just as a secondary wood for drawer boxes and cabinet backs. Its paints incredibly well and as such dyes easily. Dye is just diluted paint after all (gross oversimplification, don't send hate mail). Yellow Poplar is quite soft with a Janka hardness of about 510 but amongst the other "Poplar" species it is actually the hardest. Most of the Populus genus sits at around 300-450 on the Janka scale. But other than some hardness differences you will find a lot of similarities between the super popular Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipfera) and the Cottonwoods, Aspens, and Poplars in the "proper" Populus genus. Most are considered whitewoods and all have a creamy appearance. They can all exhibit some mineral streaking in the heartwood and they are all fast growing trees. The Yellow Poplar however again takes the cake here as one of the tallest hardwoods in North America.
In short, give Poplar the respect it deserves and make sure you keep plenty of it on your lumber rack. Whether it be the "that's not a Poplar" Yellow Poplar or one of the official Poplars.