Tulip Poplar trees (Liriodendron tulipifera), also known in the South as the fiddle tree or yellow poplar tree is a majestic hardwood which dominates Appalachia. Fortunately, deep in the Pisgah National Forest where we and our bees live, the Western North Carolina mountains are flush with old growth tulip poplar trees. Closely related to the magnolia, it is one of the tallest of the New World’s native hardwoods. Sometimes reaching over 150’, the tulip poplar tree is known for its straight trunk and high, full, 50’ oval shaped crown. Early explorers sent samples of the species back to Europe where it was cultivated and used in furniture, flooring and general construction. To this day, it is one of the most popular North American trees grown in France and England.
Tulip poplar thrives in deep, wet, slightly acidic soil. The leaves are uniquely shaped with large, bright green rounded lobes. But what sets this magnificent broadleaf tree apart is its large, orange and green tulip-shaped flowers. These spectacular blossoms face the sky, reminding me of colorful teacups adorning the finest of table settings for a Mad Hatter’s tea party. And what a party it would be! Alice and her menagerie would marvel at the prodigious nectar and pollen production of the tulip poplar tree. Rather than spending an hour traveling to hundreds of other flowers before heading back to her colony, a honey bee can fill up her stomach with just one visit, and the blossom's nectar increases in sugar content as it ages. Bees prefer working tulip poplar early in the day and will then switch to foraging blackberry as it becomes warmer and more humid in the afternoon as is requires warmer temperatures to produce nectar.
Due to the pollen and nectar production of the blossoms, tulip poplar is the spring wildflower favorite for the honey bee and is often the principle source of surplus nectar in our area in the springtime. The resultant honey is amber to dark amber in color (Pfund scale of 75mm to 110mm). Pure tulip poplar honey is so dark you can barely see through it. It has a strong, profoundly deep flavor and is the most robust honey of any of our varietals. The vigorous flavor betrays its high antioxidant properties. It is sweet, but not overly so with a crispness similar to fig jam and pairs well with biscuits or as a glaze for pork loins or salmon.
We hope you enjoy this years wildflower tulip polar honey. The weather held and the bees were in the thick of it. We believe it is one of our best spring harvests in several years.