What is a Tulip Tree?

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The tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), also called the yellow popular, tulip magnolia, whitewood or tulip poplar, is a tree that belongs to the Magnoliaceae family, also called the magnolia family. It is a softwood and is used in woodworking, and its fruit is food for forest life.

Height and Bark

  • On average, the tulip tree grows 80 to 120 feet tall, and 2 to 5 feet wide. The maximum height a tulip tree is known to reach is 197 feet tall, with a width of 7 feet.
    Tulip tree bark changes with age. Young tree bark is smooth, gray and has long white furrows. As the tree ages the bark thickens, developing deep interconnecting furrows.


  • Tulip leaves are lobed shaped, and can have two to four lobes. Tulip tree leaves are smooth, dark green on top and pale green on the bottom. The bottom side of the leaves may also have a white bloom (a waxy substance). In fall, the leaves turn orange yellow.


  • From spring to summer (April to June), the tulip tree blooms green-yellow flowers that are shaped like tulips.


  • The tulip tree’s reproduction comes in the form of clusters of fruit shaped like cones, with approximately 12,000 seeds per pound of fruit. Despite this high amount of seed production, tulip trees have a low seed bearing to germination ratio.


  • The tulip tree can be found across North America, including in the states of Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan, and can also be found in Ontario, Canada.


  • The tulip tree prefers deep, moist and drained loose earth with a pH of 4.5 to 7.5. It doesn’t grow very often in dry or wet soil.

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