Tulipwood tree


The Tulip Tree by William Stafford (1914-1993)

Only pale by the evergreen,
Hardly distinguished by leaf or colour,
It used to slide a little pale from other trees
And – no great effect at our house –
It sustained what really belonged,
but would, if severely doubted,

Tulipwood (Liriodendron tulipifera)

The tulipwood tree is native to eastern North America, from southern Ontario and Illinois eastward to Connecticut and southern New York. It is generally accepted to be one of the most attractive and tallest of the eastern hardwoods.

tulipwood tree bark The tree grows to more than 50m and may reach 300 years of age in the Appalachian Mountains often with no limbs until it reaches 25-30m in height, making it a very valuable timber tree. tulip tree flowers

Fast-growing, but without the common problems of weakwood strength and short lifespan. The bark is grey with off-white furrows and the branches are nearly smooth.

The large, brilliant flowers are pale green or yellow with an orange or red band on the petals, they are very similar to the tulip, hence the common name of tulip tree. The tree flowers from April to June and yields vast quantities of nectar. The flowers from a 20yr old tree produce enough nectar to produce 1.8Kg of honey.

tuliptree in summerThe bark of the tulip tree has been used medicinally around the late 1800’s. A heart stimulant was extracted from the inner bark of the root, and the stem bark was used to produce a tonic for treating rheumatism and dyspepsia.

It has been highly valued as an ornamental tree since 1663, being used in many parks and gardens where it’s size can be accommodated.

It is the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

ornamental tulipwood
A description from Our native trees and how to identify them by Harriet Louise Keeler

"The leaves are of unusual shape and develop in a most peculiar and characteristic manner. The leaf-buds are composed of scales as is usual, and these scales grow with the growing shoot. In this respect the buds do not differ from those of many other trees, but what is peculiar is that each pair of scales develops so as to form an oval envelope which contains the young leaf and protects it against changing temperatures until it is strong enough to sustain them without injury.

When it has reached that stage the bracts separate, the tiny leaf comes out carefully folded along the line of the midrib, opens as it matures, and until it becomes full grown the bracts do duty as stipules, becoming an inch or more in length before they fall. The leaf is unique in shape, its apex is cut off at the end in a way peculiarly its own, the petioles are long, angled, and so poised that the leaves flutter independently, and their glossy surfaces so catch and toss the light that the effect of the foliage as a whole is much brighter than it otherwise would be."