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Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar

Liriodendron tulipifera

Leaves: Deciduous. Very unique leaves, 3 to 8 inches long and wide with 4 lobes. Leaves are basically square-shaped with a flat base and tip. Upper leaf is bright medium green color. Underside is significantly lighter. Fall color is golden yellow.

Bark/Twigs: Bark is light grayish-brown in color. Interesting texture, furrows into close interlacing ridges separated by grayish crevices. Ash gray thick furrows with rough ridges. Buds on twigs are very unique and look like a duck-bill.

Flowers/Fruit: Tulip-shaped flowers are greenish yellow with a bright orange band around the blossoms. 6 greenish-yellow petals grow in 2 rows and are 2 to 3 inches tall, 1½ to 3 inches wide. The center of the flower has multiple thick, pale orange-yellow stamens. Blooms in early summer (May to June). Cone-like fruits 2 to 3 inches long turn brown and persist through winter.

Mature size and shape: Large. 70 to 80 feet high x 35 to 40 feet wide. Somewhat pyramidal shape when young. Becomes more broad and oval-rounded at the top with age.

General information/special features: Plant in full sun. Young trees establish well in partial shade.  Prefers moist, well-drained, acidic soil. Does well in heavy soils. It also is known as tulip tree magno­lia, whitewood and canoewood because Native Americans once fashioned dugout canoes from its trunk. Wood is used for furniture.  The tulip poplar wood is a top choice of organ makers. The inner bark of the roots yields an alkaloid and heart stimulant. The flowers produce nectar used in gourmet honey.

Landscape use and maintenance: Good large shade tree with unique flowers. Generally planted as a single tree and needs plenty of room to grow. Not good in small residential areas. Fast growing rate. Average maintenance. Transplant in the spring. Prune in winter.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9

Family/Origin: Magnoliaceae – Magnolia. Native to the southeastern U.S. as far north as southeast Missouri, and as far northeast as Vermont.  Not a true poplar.

Campus Use: Somewhat uncommon. Can be found east of South Physics Building (Bld 10) and south of C. Roland Christensen Center (Bld 77) in the eating area.

Last Updated: 6/3/22