Indiana State Tree
Tulip Poplar (common name)
Liriodendron tulipifera (scientific name)
Not a poplar, and certainly not a tulip, tulip poplar is actually a member of the magnolia family. It possesses a distinctive gray furrowed bark and tulip-like flowers. Tulip poplar grows through most of the eastern states, but it is rare or absent in the extreme north. This is a relatively fast-growing tree, often with tall, straight trunks, branched only at the top. The flowers tend to be produced on high branches, so flowers are most often seen when they have fallen to the ground.
Tulip poplar is also known as yellow poplar, blue poplar, yellow wood, and tuliptree. It is the tallest hardwood tree in North America.
A tall, deciduous, long-lived, broadleaf tree, tulip poplar has a straight trunk with vertically-furrowed bark. Its leaves are light green and deeply lobed. Its flower resembles a green tulip in size and shape. Flowers are greenish-yellow with an orange splotch near the base of each petal. The tree's cone-like seed cluster breaks into winged seeds.
Height: up to 200 ft (61 m)
Diameter: up to 10 ft (3 m)
Bark: brown with vertical grooves
Seed: narrow, light-brown cones
Leaves: heart-shaped with 4 lobes, 5-6 in (13-15 cm) long and wide
This is a fast-growing tree, and may reach 300 years of age in the right climate and soil.
Tulip poplar prefers a temperate climate. It grows well in moist locations with sun or partial shade, such as those along streams or in deep cove forests of the Appalachian Mountains. In such areas, it can be very tall and form an important component of mixed deciduous forests. It shares its habitat with a variety of pines, oaks, baldcypress, tupelo, white ash, American beech, black walnut, and hickory.
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE
Livestock prefer the foliage and stems of tulip poplar over those of other tree species. Young trees are often heavily browsed, which, along with trampling, frequently eliminates seedlings. Cattle or other browsers create "browse lines" on older trees.
White-tailed deer browse tulip poplar during all seasons. Northern bobwhites, purple finches, cottontails, red squirrels, gray squirrels, and white-footed mice consume the winged fruit, called samaras. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers use the vascular tissues, and ruby-throated hummingbirds consume nectar from the flowers.
Tulip poplar in various stages of growth provides hiding and thermal cover for white-tailed deer, small mammals, upland game birds, waterfowl, and non-game birds. It provides habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
OTHER USES AND VALUES
Tulip poplar has been valued as an ornamental since the 17th century. It is particularly valued as a honey tree.
This tree was used medicinally in the late 1800's: a heart stimulant was extracted from the inner bark of the root, and a tonic for treating rheumatism and dyspepsia was extracted from stem bark.
Tulip poplar wood is a valuable hardwood tree and is used for construction grade lumber and plywood. It has straight grain, little shrinkage, and excellent gluing qualities. In the past it was used for carriage bodies, shingles, saddle frames, containers and utensils, and interior finish wood. It is currently used for cabinets, veneer, furniture, plywood, and pulp. Tulip poplar has only fair value as a fuel wood but good value as kindling.
Tulip poplar is mainly insect pollinated, with some self-pollination. It is a prolific seed producer. It first produces seed at 15 to 20 years of age and continues to do so for more than 200 years.
After cutting and/or fire, the tree sprouts from dormant buds located on the root crown. Sprouting decreases with age, as the bark becomes too thick for the bud to break through.
This tree grows best on north and east aspects, lower slopes, sheltered coves, and gentle concave slopes. It prefers moderately deep soil that is relatively moist, well drained, fertile, and loosely textured.
Tulip poplar inhabits 26 states in eastern North America. The species ranges from Vermont, west through southern Ontario and Michigan, south to Louisiana, and east to northern Florida. It grows near sea level in Florida, up to 4,500 feet (1,364 m) in the Appalachian Mountains.
Disclaimer: The authors and publishers do not engage in the practice of medicine. Under no circumstances is this information intended as a medical recommendation.
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U.S. Forest Service
U.S. National Arboretum
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Author: World Trade Press