Tree of the Week: Liriodendron tulipifera


The tuliptree is one of my favorite trees and, to me, one of the easier ones to identify. No, that is not why it is one of my favorite trees.  The tall, straight trunk of the tuliptree gives it such a majestic look.  Even the shape of the leaves adds to its splendor.  They remind me of flower petals; not harsh and pointed, nor narrow and pinched. The leaves are ‘full’ and rounded, even if they do come to a point at the end of each lobe.  I’ve noticed the tuliptrees near my house still have parts of their fruits attached to the ends of their branches.  Even these stand upright and straight, as if daring the winter wind to get the better of them.  No slouching for this tree.  The flowers of the tuliptree are large enough to see from the ground and do look like actual flowers, as opposed to, say, the maple tree’s flowers.


Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Common name: tuliptree, tulip-poplar, yellow-poplar
Genus: Liriodendron
Species: tulipifera
Family: Magnoliaceae (magnolia family)

Identifying characteristics: a straight trunk, large tree with neatly furrowed bark.  The leaves are symmetrical, 4-lobed, alternate on the twig, and are about 6 inches long.  I learned the bud by being told it looks like a duck’s bill, and that it does.  The buds are made up on two scales in a oval-ish shape.  This tree is known as a good tree for timber due to the lack of limbs on the lower part of the tree.

The tuliptree is also the state tree of Indiana.

Other links:

Virginia Tech – has some really good up close photos of the bark and the bud

Pollen Library – has a map showing distribution

Plants For A Future – this website has some additional interesting information, including if there are any edible parts, other uses, and propagation information.  Personally I have not eaten any part of this tree and do not take responsibility if you choose to do so.  I’m not promoting that anyone does, just found it interesting.  There is also a nice picture of the flower, though it looks a bit green (immature?).  (The photograph at the very bottom of this post is of a flower looking straight down on it. If you were to look at it from the side it would be yellow/cream and orange.)


The above photograph is from the ’60’s.  I personally have not seen a tree this big, but that does not mean they are not still out there.  This is just to give you an idea of what would be possible if left to grow.

Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester.


Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester.
This is part of the “Tree of The Week” series.  Each week I will be posting information about a specific tree species.  I know not everyone is from the same part of the country, so I will try to spread the love around.
If you would like to practice, or learn, tree identification along with me please do so. It is always more fun to learn something with someone else.  Let me know how it is going.
My main resource for the Midwest is a book I have been using for many years, Trees of the Central Hardwood Forests of North America. This book also served me well when I worked in the South, though I would not recommend it be your sole resource if you live there. I will add links, especially, to images online.  The real life thing is best, but pictures work if you are unable to have a live example in front of you.

One Reply to “Tree of the Week: Liriodendron tulipifera”

  1. Aaah, sounds like you have a love/hate iriateonshlp with Sweet Gums like I do with the 6 giant sycamores I have lining my property! They are such beautiful trees, but my are they prolific shedders-pollen, seed pods, bark and leaves! It is 12 months a year cleaning up after them.

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