Height: The tuliptree usually reaches about 70 to 100 feet in height; exceptional specimens may approach 200 feet. One of the tallest trees in the eastern United States.
Lifespan: Up to 300 years
Fall Foliage: Gold. Not as spectacular as some other species, but nice.
Range: East of the Mississippi River, from northern Florida to Vermont.
Typical Habitat: Found in a variety of forested sites, but grows largest in rich, deep soil, such as is found in sheltered coves of major river valleys.
The Tuliptree: Alternative Names
The tuliptree is sometimes called the yellow poplar or tulip poplar.
Conceding the fact that there is no code or set of rules governing the use of common names as there is for scientific names, “tuliptree” is undoubtedly the best option of the three most common names applied to Liriodendron tulipifera (the real name of the species).
The reason is simple: This tree is not a poplar, nor is it particularly closely related to them. The names ending in poplar were bequeathed upon them by loggers, who did so based on some of the superficial similarities between actual poplars (Populus spp.) and tuliptrees.
The Tuliptree: Identification Tips & Tricks
The leaf is all you really need to consider in the warm parts of the year. The leaf is sometimes said to look like a cartoon cat’s face (just look for the ears and whiskers), but even if you don’t see that, there aren’t really any similar-looking leaves in the eastern U.S.
In the winter or early spring, you can note the dried flower-shaped fruits standing upright on the tree’s upper branches. You can also learn to spot the bark and growth habit with a little practice.
Plus, if it’s a mature specimen, it’s likely one of the tallest trees in the area.
The Post Oak: Additional Information
Want to know more about the tuliptree? We can hardly blame you – it’s pretty awesome. Check out these great references to quench that thirst:
- Missouri Botanical Gardens: Basic information about the species, with a bit of a horticultural emphasis.
- Virginia Tech Dendrology: General info about the tuliptree, including a great picture of the winter fruit.
- U.S. Forest Service: Everything you could want to know about this tree, including pest and disease information.