Tulip tree or yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a medium to large deciduous tree with tall trunk and small, narrow, compact canopy in the forest. The distinctive leaves are alternate, lobed, tulip-shaped with a long-stalk. Twigs are curved up and reddish-brown. Young bark is smooth, faintly striped or speckled with dark chevrons at the branch site. Mature trunk has distinct chiseled ridges. The timber is prized for its use in cabinetry. Flowers are tulip-shaped. The tulip poplar requires moist fertile soil and adequate space. Only one other species in this genus L. chinense. The tulip tree produces a valuable wood which is light in color and soft used in making furniture and canoes. It is the state tree of Kentucky, Tennesee and Indiana. Its genus name comes from the Greek word leirion meanig a “lily” and dendron meaning a “tree”. The specific epithet refers to the tulip shape of the flowers (and leaf). Introduced to European cultivation allegedly by John Tradescant in mid-17th century. It was planted in Fulham Palace in London in 1688.
Common name: Tulip Poplar, Tulip Tree, Yellow Poplar, White Poplar
Scientific Name (family and order): Liriodendron tulipifera L. (Magnoliaceae, Magnoliales)
Species Origin: Eastern North America
New Jersey Status: USDA Native
Habit: 70 – 164’ high x 70’ wide; bole 3 – 4’ diameter, broadly columnar. It develops a very straight trunk with few low branches and topped by a broad canopy. Older trees have an extremely large trunk with a buttresssed often hollowed out base and thick, deeply-furrowed bark.
habitat: Zones 4 – 9; grows in deciduous woods.
Trunk/Stem: Bark gray brown with very regular vertical furrows.
Leaves: Deciduous, Simple, Alternate. Leaves 8” long x 8” wide with four lobes. Above the leaf is dark green and bluish white below; leaf turns yellow to orange in autumn. The leaves flutter in the breeze like poplars.
Flowers: Perfect. Flowers perfect; tulip-shaped; 2 ½” long with nine tepals, three outer tepals green reflexed, and six inner pale- green tepals banded orange near the base. The flowers sit singly at the ends of shoots in midsummer. The flowers contain many yellow stamens and an enlarged pistil consisting of about 70 densely packed carpels.
Fruits and seeds: The fruit is cone-shaped upright cluster of overlapping samaras around a central axis. The samaras are light brown, with papery wings containing 1 -2 seeds. Samaras spread from the inside to the outside of the cluster.