The Tuliptree
Liriodendron tulipifera L.

Tuliptree located in from of Smyth Hall along the walk to the Admissions House

Description

The Tulip-poplar tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is one of the most attractive eastern hardwoods.  It has many other common names including yellow-poplar, blue-poplar, tuliptree, and yellow wood.  Tulip-poplar is a tall, deciduous, long-lived, broadleaf tree. The leaves are alternate with a distinctive tulip like shape (see leaf photo at bottom of page). Tulip trees are one of the tallest trees, and they are important in economic uses because approximately 66% of the trunk is free of lateral branches. It can reach heights of 200 feet (61 m) (1).  The flowers are tulip like in size and shape, and are very fragrant (see photo below) (2).  The fruit is a light brown cone-like structure consisting of many winged samaras (key fruits) on a central stalk (1).

Location

The Tulip-poplar tree pictured above is located in front of Smyth Hall along the walk to the Admissions House. Be sure to take a look at the tree throughout the seasons, having beautiful orange/green flowers in the spring, and brilliant yellow leaves in the fall. 

Native Habitat

The Tulip-poplar tree inhabits the eastern North America, stretching from western Tennessee and Indiana east to Vermont and Rhode Island. Its northernmost location is Southern Ontario, Canada, and its southernmost location is northern Florida (1).

Optimal Growing Conditions

Tuliptree Leaf

Liriodendron tulipifera grows best in moist, well-drained soils; this is true especially in valleys and slopes.  They often grow in pure stands (5).

Economic Importance

Currently, the Tuliptree is one of the single most important commercial hardwoods.   Its wood is straight-grained, soft, resistant to splitting, and easily worked.   Therefore, Liriodendron tulipifera is used in products such as furniture, musical instruments, crates, toys, boats, shingles, interiors, pulp, and fuel. 

Ethnobotanical and Cultural Information

The Tulip-poplar was one of the prime sources for canoe-making by both Native Americans and European pioneers, who would hollow out a single log to make long, lightweight canoes. Its wood was so useful in certain wood-working applications that the earliest European pioneers brought it back to Europe from Virginia (5).

Tulip-poplar has been valued as an ornamental tree since 1663. The tulip-like flowers and leaves are aesthetically pleasing, and the flowers are producers of a valuable nectar. The flowers from a 20-year-old tree produce enough nectar to yield 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of honey (1).

Tulip-poplar's bark was used medicinally in the late 1800's as a tonic for treating rheumatism and dyspepsia, and also as a heart stimulant (1).

Fascinating Facts

  • The Tulip tree was adopted as the Tennessee state tree in 1947 (3).
  • The Tulip tree is in the same family as Southern Magnolia, but the leaves are much thinner (4).
  • The Tulip tree is also the state tree of Kentucky and Indiana (4).

Other interesting sites

1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. 2001. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/lirtul - (10/21/2001)

2. Evans E. 2000. NC State University Department of Horticulture. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/liriodendron_tulipifera.html 
(10/21/2001) 

3. http://homeschooling.about.com/library/bltntree.htm - (10/21/2001)

4. Tulip tree, http://www.bcc.orst.edu/hort226/litu1c.htm - (10/22/2001)

5. Little E.L. 1995. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.  436-37 p.

Created by:  Nadia Georgivna Fedoriw

 Edited by: Sarah Domville

 

Tree Walk Home Page
Nazareth College Home Page | Biology Department

  Dr. Beverly Brown  

  Nazareth College of Rochester        

  Page last edited: 04/24/2002

Maintained by Sara O'Brien