Tulip Poplar, Tulip Tree, Yellow Poplar, White Wood

(Liriodendron tulipifera)


General Description

The leaves of the tulip poplar are usually four to six inches long, with a shiny or glossy appearance, and dark green on the top, and then paler green on the underside.  In the fall, the leaves turn bright yellow.  They have long (five to six inch) stems, and usually four lobes.  The leaves are simple, meaning only one leaf per stem, and alternate along the twig.  The tulip poplar bears tulip shaped flowers (hence the common name), that are 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, and also deep.  The flowers are yellow-green in color and have six petals, which may be orange at the bottom.  After the leaves have developed, the flowers will start to bloom in the early spring.  The flowers are attached to the ends of leafy twigs higher up in the tree canopy.  The fruit from the tulip poplar is 2.5 to 3 inches in length, and shaped like a cone, composed of single-winged samara that shed in the fall.  A mature tulip poplar will have ashy gray-brown bark that is rough and ridged.  There are also lighter colored long furrows in the bark.  Tulip poplars are one of the largest trees on the Atlantic coast, and can reach up to 190 feet in height and 10 feet in diameter (but usually only four to six feet in diameter).  Their trunks are long and straight. 



Bark, close up


Leaf, close up

Photos by ENWC 201 Fall 2006



The tulip poplar has a large range throughout the eastern United States, but only reaching northern Florida and mid-New York.  At Iron Hill Park, tulip poplars will most likely be found in the direct sun and in well drained areas.  They will be found among other trees such as oaks, maples, and hickories, because they do not form exclusive forests.


Potential Wildlife Values

Tulip poplars are great sources of shade in a forest for other wildlife species.  This tree attracts northern bobwhites, cottontail rabbits, grey squirrels and mice. Hummingbirds and sapsuckers feed on its flower nectar and phloem tissue.



Brockman, C. Frank.  1968.  Trees of North America.  Western Publishing Company, Inc.  New York, New York.  154-155.

Hough, Romeyn Beck.  1907.  Handbook of the Trees of the Northern States and Canada East of the Rocky Mountains.  Lowville, New York.  214-215.

Jensen, Edward C., Peterson, John A., Seiler, John R.  2005-2006.  Yellow-poplar Magnoliaceae Liriodendron tulipifera L.  http://www.cnr.vt.edu/DENDRO/DENDROLOGY/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=54

Kirwan, Jeff, Jensen, Edward C., Peterson, John A., Seiler, John R., Phillips, Guy, Meeks, Andrew S. 2004.  Yellow Poplar-  Liriodendron tulipifera.  http://www.cnr.vt.edu/dendro/LandownerFactsheets/detail.cfm?Genus=Liriodendron&Species=tulipifera

Preston, Richard J. Jr.  1961.  North American Trees (Exclusive of Mexico and Tropical United States).  The Iowa State University Press.  Ames, Iowa.  234-235.

The Virtual  Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington.  2006.  http://www.nk2.psu.edu/naturetrail/speciespages/poplar.htm



Information gathered and reported by Tara Huang, ENWC 201 Fall 2006