Tulipier de virginie

Liriodendron tulipifera L.Magnoliaceae (magnolia family)

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.

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Flowers are large, tulip-shaped, borne singly at the end of leafy twigs.

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Cone-shaped aggregates of green or yellowish fruits are borne at the tips of branches.

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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.

When open-grown, as in a park, the crown is often broad and irregular.

Young trees have smooth grey-green bark, striped with pale fissures.

As the tree ages, the bark becomes uniform in colour and develops intersecting longitudinal ridges.

Tulip-tree has brittle, shiny twigs with stipule scars encircle the twig at each leaf node.

The dark red buds consist of two scales that are flattened, resembling a duck bill. Terminal buds are 12 - 14 mm (1/2") long.

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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.

Leaves emerge from between two large stipules (leafy bracts) that fall off shortly after.

Leaves have an alternate arrangement on the branch.

In fall, the leaves turn yellow.

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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.

The flowers have numerous pistils on a central axis (the receptacle), surrounded by many stamens.

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Aggregates of green or yellowish fruits form conical clusters, 5 - 7 cm (2" - 2 3/4") long.

The individual fruits are samaras with narrow papery wings, 4.5 - 8 cm (1.75" - 3") long.

In the fall when ripe, the samaras fall to the ground, leaving behind the receptacle on which they were attached.

The receptacles often remain on the tree throughout the winter.

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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!

Official status

Tulip-tree is the state tree of Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Similar species

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.

Human use

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 value

Tulip-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.

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Tulip-tree IN TORONTO

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.

This tree is available for planting through the City of Toronto's street tree program and LEAF's backyard tree program.

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WHERE CAN I SEE Tulip-tree?

Links to maps at Canadian Tree Tours:

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