Wing Haven Tulip Poplar

SPECIES: Liriodendron tulipifera DIAMETER: 67in HEIGHT: 130' SPREAD: 50' ORIGINAL TREASURE TREE: No

Tree Location

Address:

248 Ridgewood Ave
Charlotte, NC 28209

Get Directions

Coordinates:

35.179424
-80.840511

 

History

Back in 1926, a young engineer with stars in his eyes and love in his heart by the name of Edwin Clarkson purchases a small lot on Ridgewood Avenue with the hopes of building. Emboldened by the title of landowner, he sets off to convince the love of his life, concert pianist Elizabeth Barnhill, that her destiny is to be with him. One year later, they marry and move into the home he has built on the lot. Denied the career as a pianist, Mrs. Clarkson decides the next best thing is to become an ornithologist. Over the next 10 years, the Clarksons acquire the surrounding 3 acres of undeveloped land and slowly, with much attention to detail, they begin to turn the former farm lowlands into a bird sanctuary.
With little coaxing, they begin to adopt the birds of the area, with some actually becoming the family the Clarksons are unable to have on their own. Perhaps the defining incident that they set their course from is when they take in an orphaned Blue Bird family. Rescuing and naming the 4 baby birds, one, whom they named Tommy ends up sharing their home for 8 years. For all their noble intentions, they are still in suburban neighborhood where prowls the dangerous young male humans. One in particular, a young boy by the name of Billy C. becomes somewhat the scourge of the garden. He, like many young boys, is enamored with setting fires. The closest thing to video games in those days. So enthralled, he builds a fire on the backside of one of the largest trees in the Clarksons budding sanctuary, a large Tulip Poplar. By the time Elizabeth discovers it, the damage is done. Almost too late, the bark is singed down to the wood. Distressed, but a nurturer by nature, she allows the tree remain.
Now here, almost 100 years later, that tree still stands as testament to the ClarksonTMs love of all creation. Where the fire burned so long ago, a cavity developed at the base. Poplar has a poor defense system against externally introduced rot and if you walk around to the back of the tree, you can still see the door to the cavity. That tree is now over 5TM in diameter and the organism itself is still alive and thriving. So much so that it has grown to over 130TM in height. If youTMre not afraid of dark holes in trees, you can actually crawl inside, and with a light look up almost 18TM into the top of the cavern. We wouldnTMt be surprised if there were possums or bats living there, weTMre just not willing to find out.
In 2013, this tree became a Jewel of the QueenTMs Crown and was adopted by the local arboricultural firm, Heartwood Tree Service. They donated over $2500 in pruning care to make this vacant trunked behemoth more able to withstand the wiles of nature. By pruning away the length and height of the limbs of the tree, they reduced the weight, wind sail and leverage allowing it to stand for a few more years when it will be examined again. The two arborists that climbed and pruned the tree, Simon Zimmerman and Jeff Perry were the ones that measured the height. They remarked that from the top of the tree, they could see downtown Charlotte and it looked just like the Kingdom of OZ and all the other trees below it like a standing forest of broccoli. So this denizen of Myers Park will have itTMs health and structural stability checked every three years in the future with the hopes of outliving the author of this article.
To visit this tree, youTMll have to go while the gardens are open. Visiting hours, history and information can be found at winghavengardens.com. The gardens still serve as a sanctuary for the local flora and fauna and they offer educational servings for children of all ages. Enjoy!

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