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New Babies, New trees

By: Lacey Russell, PhD | May 3rd, 2018

Eight years ago our first child was born. We planted a tulip poplar. Liriodendron tulipifera.  We called it his tree. Two years later when our daughter was born, we planted a Shumard oak. Quercus shumardii. When our third child was born, a boy, we planted a red mulberry. Morus rubra. My husband and I are plant lovers, and we wanted to populate our small lot with native trees that would provide shade, beauty, and become symbolic of our growing family.

The tulip poplar

My husband’s choice.  Like him, the tree is native to the southeast and loves to live near flowing water. The native range of the tulip poplar only extends as far west as Louisiana, but with proper care can thrive in east Texas. The leaves have a unique shape and their color is a light green. When the trees are about 15 years old they begin to produce tulip-shaped yellow and green flowers. And they get so tall, you can only walk away with a flower after it falls to the ground. I remember seeing parks littered with lovely tulip poplar flowers on a visit to Washington DC, where the trees are numerous.

The Shumard oak

A fast growing red oak with beautiful red fall color. It was so happy where we planted it, it quickly outgrew the poplar! And you better believe that our daughter likes to point out that her tree is the tallest.  The leaves are fun to gather in the fall for decorations and leaf rubs and it will soon be a great tree for climbing.

The red mulberry

We planted this one three years ago when our last child was born. It's kind of bittersweet when I think of it. It's still the smallest of the three and will probably stay that way. Although they can grow to be quite tall (~50 feet), they grow naturally in the shade of taller trees such as oaks and pine trees. Female red mulberries produce delicious and sweet fruit that can be eaten straight from the tree (if you can reach them), or made into jelly, jam, or even wine.   

Here's the kicker—We've since moved from that house where we planted these trees. However, we're still in the neighborhood. By neighborhood I mean 60 miles north, in a different city. Before you judge me for abandoning my children's trees, I'll have you know that we make regular drives by our old house to see our trees. And like our children, they're thriving and growing.