Common Name: Tulip Tree
Origin: E. North America
Notable Feature: Named and noted for its tulip-shaped flowers that bloom in spring. Trunks of mature trees may reach 4 to 6 feet in diameter, usually rising column-like with an absence of lower branching.
Habit: This deciduous tree can grow quickly, often with no limbs, until it reaches 80 to 100 feet in height and 35 to 50 feet wide, making it a very valuable, fast-growing timber tree. Upright and pyramidal with a strong central leader in both youth and middle age, becoming columnar, then irregular, spreading, and open in old age.
Flower: Perfect (bisexual) flowers. Pale greenish yellow, 2 to 3” high, cup-shaped and erect, containing 6 petals with an orange band at the base. May go unnoticed on large trees because the flowers appear after the leaves in early May and they are borne high up in the canopy. Upright on every branch, they hold the sunshine in their cups, seemingly to light up the entire tree. Yield large quantities of nectar and consequently a favorite of hummingbirds.
Fruit: A cone-like, yellow-green aggregate of samaras, 2 to 3” long and ¾” wide. Each samara is 1-winged and 1 ½” long; maturing to a light brown in late summer and disseminating seeds through fall and winter. The lower whorls of samaras persist on the fruit into the following spring and resemble wooden flowers high in the tree.
Foliage: Alternate, orbicular, 4-lobed with a smooth margin, 4 to 7 inches long and wide, apex may be either notched or flat. Bright green turning a clear, bright yellow-gold in fall.
Bark: Light gray-green and smooth when young, later developing flat-topped ridges and conspicuous white-colored furrows in diamond shaped patterns. On older trees sapsucker holes are common.
Interesting Fact: Despite one of its common names, it is not a Poplar (Willow Family) but it is in the Magnolia Family. This Tulip Tree, American Tulip Tree, Tulip Poplar, Canoewood, Whitewood, Fiddle-tree, or Yellow Poplar is the tallest eastern hardwood. Pioneers hollowed out a single log to make a long, lightweight canoe.