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Tulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Magnoliaceae (Magnolia)
Also in this family:
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 metres tall
Gardens, parks.

Yellow, 6 petals
Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) bear striking and distinct flowers, characterised by their large, tulip-like shape, lending the tree its common name. Each flower displays a greenish-yellow hue with vivid orange markings at the base of its petals. These elegant blooms typically measure 5 to 7.5 centimetres (2 to 3 inches) in diameter and grace the tips of branches during late spring to early summer. Their exceptional appearance, coupled with their nectar-rich appeal, attracts various pollinators, including bees and butterflies, making them a standout feature in the canopy of eastern North American forests and landscapes.
Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) produce unique fruit, commonly referred to as "cones" or "seed cones." These structures, reminiscent of elongated, narrow cones, are made up of winged seeds encased in a protective structure. Each cone measures approximately 5 to 9 centimetres (2 to 3.5 inches) in length and dangles from the tree's branches, gradually changing from green to brown as they mature. Within these cones, numerous seeds with papery wings are nestled, aiding in wind dispersal. When fully ripened, the cones split open, releasing the seeds to the surrounding area. This distinctive fruiting mechanism is a key characteristic of tulip trees and plays a role in their reproductive success within their native habitats.
The leaves of the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) are distinctively shaped, showcasing a remarkable combination of characteristics. They are large, deciduous, and typically measure 8 to 15 centimetres (3 to 6 inches) in length, featuring a strikingly unique outline reminiscent of tulip flowers, with four lobes that form a square or rectangular shape. These leaves are a bright, glossy green in colour and alternate along the branches. Their autumn transformation is a visual spectacle, turning into vibrant shades of golden yellow before dropping to the forest floor, adding to the tree's overall allure and making it a notable component of the UK's arboreal landscape.
Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are renowned for their lack of a distinctive fragrance. Unlike some flowering trees that release captivating scents into the air, tulip trees are primarily admired for their visual beauty rather than their olfactory appeal. These trees typically do not produce fragrant blooms, and their leaves and bark also lack notable aromas. Therefore, while tulip trees are celebrated for their striking appearance and ecological significance, they are not sought after for their fragrance in the UK or other regions where they are cultivated.
Other Names:
American Tulip Tree, Canary Whitewood, Canoewood, Lyre Tree, North American Whitewood, Saddle Tree, Tulip Poplar, Western Poplar, Whitewood, Yellow Poplar.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Liriodendron tulipifera, also known as the tulip tree or American tulip tree, is a large deciduous tree in the magnolia family (Magnoliaceae) native to eastern North America. It is known for its distinctive tulip-shaped flowers that bloom in late spring, which are greenish-yellow with an orange band on the inside of each petal. The leaves are large and star-shaped, with a deep green color and a smooth texture. The tree can grow up to 90 feet tall and has a straight trunk with a narrow, pyramidal shape. The wood is strong and durable, and it is often used for furniture, flooring, and construction. The tulip tree is also valued as an ornamental tree, and it is often planted in parks and large gardens.


Tulip Trees, also known as Liriodendron tulipifera, are one of the most magnificent trees found in the eastern part of North America. These trees are native to the United States and Canada and are known for their distinctive tulip-shaped flowers, conical shape, and rapid growth.

Tulip Trees can grow up to 90 feet tall, making them one of the tallest hardwoods in North America. Their leaves are shaped like a tulip, with a unique characteristic that sets them apart from other trees - the leaf has four points, and each point has two lobes. This makes for a unique and eye-catching look that makes the tree stand out.

The flowers of the Tulip Tree are also a thing of beauty. They are yellow-green in color, with an orange band running around the base of each petal. The flowers appear in late spring and early summer, attracting a variety of pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Aside from its beauty, the Tulip Tree also has a number of practical uses. The wood is strong and durable, making it a popular choice for furniture, flooring, and other construction applications. It is also used to make musical instruments and tool handles due to its strength and stability.

One of the most notable characteristics of the Tulip Tree is its fast growth. When planted in the right conditions, these trees can grow up to three feet per year. This makes them an excellent choice for landscaping, as they provide quick shade and a beautiful focal point for any yard.

Despite its beauty and practicality, the Tulip Tree is not without its challenges. Like many other fast-growing trees, the Tulip Tree is susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. It is important to take care of these trees properly, which includes regular watering and pruning, to ensure their long-term health and stability.

The Tulip Tree is an outstanding choice for those looking to add a touch of beauty and practicality to their yard. Its fast growth, beautiful flowers, and strong wood make it a versatile and useful tree that will continue to provide enjoyment for many years to come.

In addition to its beauty and practicality, the Tulip Tree is also a valuable tree in terms of its ecological significance. These trees provide important habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and mammals.

For example, the Tulip Tree is a preferred food source for the larvae of the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, which feed on the leaves of the tree. In turn, the adult butterflies provide important pollination services to the tree, helping to ensure its survival and success.

The Tulip Tree also provides valuable shade, which helps to cool the surrounding environment and reduce the impact of urban heat islands. This is particularly important in areas with high levels of urbanization, where the loss of green spaces can lead to a significant increase in temperature.

Another important aspect of the Tulip Tree is its role in carbon sequestration. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through a process known as photosynthesis, which helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Finally, the Tulip Tree is a tree of historical significance. It was a valuable source of wood for early settlers in North America, and it was also used by Native American tribes for a variety of purposes, including medicinal treatments and dye production.

The Tulip Tree is an important tree in many ways, not just for its beauty and practicality. Its ecological significance, its role in mitigating climate change, and its historical significance all make it a tree worth appreciating and preserving for future generations.

Aside from its ecological, historical, and cultural significance, the Tulip Tree is also an important tree in terms of cultural and literary references. For example, the tree is mentioned in various works of literature, including poetry, songs, and novels.

In "The Waste Land," a landmark poem by T.S. Eliot, the Tulip Tree is referenced as a symbol of hope and renewal. Eliot writes of the "trees of spring" and the "tulip trees in bloom" as a symbol of the return of life after a long winter.

In American folk songs, the Tulip Tree is often mentioned as a symbol of love and commitment. For example, in the song "The Green Fields of Virginia," the Tulip Tree is referenced as a symbol of the singer's love for his sweetheart.

The Tulip Tree is also referenced in various works of fiction, such as the novel "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott. In the book, the tree is mentioned as a source of comfort and solace for the main character, Jo, during a difficult time in her life.

In conclusion, the Tulip Tree is not just a beautiful and practical tree, but also a tree with a rich cultural and literary history. From its references in literature and folk songs, to its role in symbolizing hope and renewal, the Tulip Tree is a tree that has captured the imagination of people for centuries.

30 Noteworthy Facts About Tulip Trees

Here are 30 lesser-known facts about Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera):

  1. Tulip trees are also known as tulip poplar, yellow poplar, and whitewood.
  2. They are not actually related to tulips but are named for their tulip-like flowers.
  3. Tulip trees are native to eastern North America.
  4. These trees can live for over 200 years.
  5. Tulip trees can reach heights of up to 150 feet (45 meters).
  6. The bark of young tulip trees is smooth and greenish, turning gray and furrowed as they age.
  7. The leaves of the tulip tree are distinctive, resembling tulip flowers in shape.
  8. Tulip tree leaves turn golden-yellow in the fall.
  9. The wood of tulip trees is valuable and used in furniture making and construction.
  10. Tulip tree flowers are large and showy, with a tulip-like shape, and are greenish-yellow with orange markings.
  11. These trees are known for their rapid growth when young.
  12. Tulip tree seeds are contained in cone-like structures and are dispersed by the wind.
  13. The tree's scientific name, Liriodendron tulipifera, means "lily tree with tulip-shaped leaves."
  14. Tulip trees are known for their straight trunks, making them popular for timber production.
  15. They are often used as shade trees in urban areas.
  16. Tulip trees are attractive to honeybees and provide a source of nectar.
  17. Insects, such as the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly, are pollinators of tulip tree flowers.
  18. The nectar of tulip tree flowers is edible and can be used to make jelly.
  19. Native Americans used various parts of the tree for medicinal purposes.
  20. Tulip tree wood was used by indigenous peoples to make canoes.
  21. The tallest recorded tulip tree in the United States is over 170 feet tall.
  22. Tulip trees are members of the magnolia family.
  23. They are relatively resistant to pests and diseases.
  24. The wood of tulip trees is lightweight and is often used in the construction of musical instruments.
  25. These trees prefer well-drained soil and can grow in a variety of conditions.
  26. Tulip tree blossoms are sometimes referred to as "tulipanoscopy" due to their unique shape.
  27. Tulip trees can be tapped for sap, though it is not as common as maple sap tapping.
  28. The leaves of tulip trees are a food source for certain caterpillar species.
  29. The timber from tulip trees was used in the construction of the Wright brothers' aircraft.
  30. Tulip trees have been introduced in parts of Europe and Asia as ornamental trees.


The Tulip Tree filmed at the following locations:
  • High Close Arboretum, Ambleside, Cumbria: 17th June 2023
  • Haigh Hall, Wigan, Lancashire: 19th August 2023, 9th Septeember 2023 and 16th September 2023

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