Origin: Eastern North America (native in Ontario)
Tulip-trees are large trees with tall straight trunks and, when growing in the open, irregularly shaped crowns.Read more about Tree, Bark, Twigs
Leaves have 4 to 6 lobes and a distinctively notched, rather than pointed, tip.Read more about Leaves
Flowers are large, tulip-shaped, borne singly at the end of leafy twigs.Read more about Flowers
Cone-shaped aggregates of green or yellowish fruits are borne at the tips of branches.Read more about Fruit
Tulip-trees are large, up to 35 m (115') in height and 1 m (39") in diameter, with tall straight trunks that dominate the forest canopy.
The dark red buds consist of two scales that are flattened, resembling a duck bill. Terminal buds are 12 - 14 mm (1/2") long.
Leaves are 7 - 12 cm (2 3/4" - 4 3/4") long, with 4 to 6 lobes and a distinctively notched, rather than pointed, tip.
Large, solitary flowers are borne at the end of leafy twigs. Though conspicuous in colour, they are often obscured by foliage at the tops of large trees.
Flowers are tulip-shaped, 4 - 5 cm (about 2") long, with usually nine greenish-yellow tepals, the outer whorl green, the inner whorls blotched with orange.
In the fall when ripe, the samaras fall to the ground, leaving behind the receptacle on which they were attached.
Tulip-tree is native to the deciduous forest of eastern North America which extends into Canada in southwestern Ontario in the region called the Carolinian zone or Carolinian Canada. Tulip tree was introduced to England from North America in the mid to late 17th century. Tulip-tree is one of only two species in the genus Liriodendron. The other, Liriodendron chinense is native to China and Vietnam.
Derivation of names
The genus name, Liriodendron, comes from the Greek leirion, meaning lily, and dendron, meaning tree. The species name, tulipifera, means tulip-bearing. The common name tulip-tree is also in reference to the flowers which somewhat resemble tulips. Tulip-tree is also called yellow-poplar, especially when referring to lumber. Despite its names, tulip tree is not related to lilies, tulips or poplar, but is in fact, closely related to magnolias!
Tulip-tree is the state tree of Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
Tulip-tree leaves have occasionally been confused with maple leaves because both are lobed. However tulip-tree leaves have notched tips, pinnate veins and alternate branching, while maple leaves have pointed tips, palmate veins and opposite branching.
The wood of tulip-tree is commercially valuable and is used to make furniture, musical instruments, plywood, and pulp. Some Aboriginal peoples and early European settlers hollowed out the large, straight trunks to make canoes, and the roots were used medicinally.
Wildlife valueTulip-tree's flowers provide abundant nectar to bees, while the seeds feed squirrels, birds, rabbits, and deer. Deer and rabbits browse on saplings and young trees.
Tulip-tree's place in Toronto's urban forest
Lying at the northen boundary of the Carolinian zone, Toronto is at the northern limit of tulip tree's natural range and so historically it was sparse in this region. In its natural habitat it grows in deciduous forests in moist, rich soils. With increased interest in native species, tulip tree has been planted widely and is now more common in cultivated settings.
Landscape value and potential for home planting
Tulip-tree is fast growing and intolerant of shade. Due to its large size it is not suitable for growing in small sites. There are several cultivated varieties.
Pests and diseases: In Canada tulip-tree is not susceptible to many pests or diseases, although in rare cases aphids can pose a problem when they secrete large quantities of honeydew and cause sooty mold fungus to grow on the leaves.
Links to maps at Canadian Tree Tours: