Liriodendron tulipifera The Ancient Tulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera (meaning lily tree) is commonly sold as the Yellow Poplar–despite its lack of any connection to that genus–or Tulip Tree. In some parts of its native range (the eastern U.S.) it is called the Tulip Poplar.

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron Tulipifera) Named for the Tulip-Like Shape of its Flower
Tulip Poplar,Liriodendron tulipifera
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According to Hammond’s Nature Atlas of America, the Tulip Poplar is one of the oldest broad-leafed trees in the world.  It also enjoys the distinction of being the tallest deciduous tree in the U.S.

Native to the eastern United States, the Tulip Tree can grow to majestic heights where conditions are favorable.  Mature specimens of nearly 200 feet may be seen in the Appalachians.  Fully half of this staggering eminence will consist of clear trunk, the other half being the tree’s leafy crown.

The 5 inch wide leaves are saddle-shaped and glossy.  The occur, alternately, on long petioles along the branches.  They look something like maple leaves, and, like maple leaves, they change color in the fall turning bright yellow before they drop.

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Lowest Price on Liriodendton tulipifera trees!Tulip Tree, Jumbo 3-4′
Tulip Poplar
from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.

Tulip Poplar
from: Fast Growing Trees Nursery

Like the Magnolia to which it is related, Liriodendron tulipifera produces showy flowers which are held upright at the stem tips.

The cupped yellow blossoms resemble tulip flowers.  They consist of 3 sepals and 6 orange-based petals and appear in summer, after the tree has leafed out.

These 2 inch flowers are followed by a dry fruit or conelike samara which most often produces infertile seed.  The seed pods persist into winter.

Using Tulip Trees in the Landscape

Close-Up of Tulip Trees in a Garden (Liriodendron Tulipifera)
Close-Up of Tulip Trees in a Garden
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Place this tree 20-30 feet from the foundation of your home.

At this distance, it will shade the structure without crowding it.

It is important that you understand, when planting this tree, that juveniles will not bloom. A Yellow Poplar will only begin to flower after it has at least 15 growing seasons under its belt.

Plant it for quick shade and look upon the blooms as a bonus.

Here’s what you can expect after 10 years of good growth:

Height35-40 feetSpread15-20 feetShadeLight to moderateFormOval

Tulip Tree Care

Plant this taprooted tree on cool, deep soil in full sun.  It performs best in humid climates.  Enrich the soil with organic matter prior to setting the tree in and keep it moist, but avoid waterlogging it.

Liriodendron tulipifera is an easy-to-grow tree which is rarely bothered by bugs or diseases.

This is a great shade or specimen tree for large properties in zones 5-9.

Tulip Poplar Wood

Yellow Poplar or Tulip Tree (Liriodendron Tulipifera)
Yellow Poplar or Tulip Tree Wood
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The wood is soft and easily milled, light in color and weight, and finely grained.  In the mountains of Tennessee, it is called canoe wood after the narrow boats which have traditionally been hollowed out of the broad, straight trunks.

Because of its light weight, it is a useful crating material. Yellow Poplar is also used to make furniture, insulation, and paper.

Medicinal Uses of Liriodendron tulipifera:

A heart stimulant is produced from the bitter bark.  Other pharmaceuticals are produced from various parts of the plant.

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