The tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) serves as the state tree of Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. Tulip trees require a moist soil and reach up to 120 feet in height.
The tulip poplar gets its name from the tulip-shaped flowers and leaves it produces, often occurring high in the tree’s canopy. The flowers are a source of nectar for bees and hummingbirds, fruit for squirrels and food for deer.
The tulip poplar is neither a tulip nor a poplar, but a member of the magnolia family. Tulip poplar trees are also called tulip trees or yellow poplar.
The tulip poplar is not a member of the poplar genus Populus, but a member of the genus Liriodendron. According to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, leirion means lily in the Greek language and dendron means tree, while tulipifera, or tulip-bearing, refers to the tulip-shaped flowers.
Tulip trees grow mainly in the eastern United States. The fast-growing tulip poplar has a very straight trunk. The young trees have smooth bark, while older trees develop bark with deep furrows that interlace.
According to the USDA, the tulip tree is remarkably free from pest and disease issues, but can experience damage from wind or ice when located in exposed areas.