Donald E. Beck
Yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), also called tuliptree, tulip-poplar, white-poplar, and whitewood, is one of the most attractive and tallest of eastern hardwoods. It is fast growing and may reach 300 years of age on deep, rich, well-drained soils of forest coves and lower mountain slopes. The wood has high commercial value because of its versatility and as a substitute for increasingly scarce softwoods in furniture and framing construction. Yellow-poplar is also valued as a honey tree, a source of wildlife food, and a shade tree for large areas.
Liriodendron tulipifera L.
Pine savannas, wet pine flatwoods.
Apr–Jun ; Sep–Oct . Not seen in Shaken Creek Preserve by the senior author. Specimens seen in the vicinity: Sandy Run [ O’Berry ]: Taggart SARU 162 (WNC!; as Liriodendron tulipifera var. 1), Weakley 7217 (NCU!; as Liriodendron tulipifera var. variabilis ). [= RAB, FNA;> Liriodendron tulipifera var. 1, Liriodendron tulipifera var. tulipifera sensu Weakley]
yellow-poplar, tulip magnolia, tulip tree, whitewood
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Occurrence in North America
MD MA MI MS MO NJ NY NC OH PA
RI SC TN VT VA WV ON
Vermont, west through southern Ontario and Michigan, south to Louisiana,
and east to northern Florida [1,2].
-The native range of yellow-poplar.
Some historical information regarding the distribution of L. tulipifera in the Eastern U.S. can be found in Silvics of North America.
Distribution and adaptation
Tulip poplar is exacting in soil and moisture requirements. It does best on moderately moist, deep, well drained, loose textured soils; it rarely grows well in very dry or very wet situations. It will tolerate a pH of 4.5 to 7.5.
Tulip poplar is distributed throughout the east and southeast portions of the United States. For a current distribution map, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Website.
Yellow-poplar is a tall, deciduous, long-lived, broadleaf tree. The
leaves are alternate with a distinctive tuliplike shape. In forest
stands yellow-poplar is one of the straightest and tallest trees, with
approximately 66 percent of the bole free of lateral branches [1,2]. It
can reach heights of 200 feet (61 m) and a dbh greater than 10 feet (3
m) . The flowers are tuliplike in size and shape [1,2,11]. The
fruit is a conelike structure consisting of many winged samaras on a
central stalk .
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the term: swamp
21 Eastern white pine
22 White pine
51 White pine - chestnut oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
57 Yellow poplar
58 Yellow poplar - eastern hemlock
59 Yellow poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
64 Sassafras - persimmon
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
87 Sweet gum - yellow poplar
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K081 Oak savanna
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K084 Cross Timbers
K089 Black Belt
K090 Live oak - sea oats
K091 Cypress savanna
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K109 Transition between K104 and K106
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K115 Sand pine scrub
sheltered coves, and gentle concave slopes [1,27].
Soils: Growth is best on moderately deep loams that are moderately
moist, well drained, and loose textured [1,27].
Associated species: Overstory associates include baldcypress (Taxodium
distichum), tupelo (Nyssa spp.), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), shortleaf
pine (P. echinata), eastern white pine (P. strobus), oaks (Quercus
spp.), white ash (Fraxinus americana), American beech (Fagus
grandifolia), black walnut (Juglans nigra), and hickory (Carya spp.)
Climate: Yellow-poplar grows under a variety of climatic conditions due
its broad geographic distribution. The average rainfall varies from 30
to 80 inches (760-2030 mm), and the number of frost-free days varies from
150 to 310 days .
Elevation: Yellow-poplar grows near sea level in Florida to 4,500 feet
(1,364 m) in the Appalachian Mountains .
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
Soils and Topography
Studies in locations as varied as the Coastal Plain of New Jersey, the Central States, the Great Appalachian Valley, the Carolina and Virginia Piedmonts, the Cumberland Plateau, and the mountains of north Georgia have isolated soil features that measure effective rooting depth and moisture-supplying capacity as the most important determinants of growth (13, 18, 25, 30, 35). These variables have been expressed in quantitative terms such as relative content of sand, silt, and clay; depth of humus accumulation; organic matter content of different horizons of the soil profile; percent moisture retention; available water; and depth to impermeable layers.
The same studies also stressed that topographic features plus latitude and elevation, which partially determine the amount of incoming solar radiation and rate of evaporation or otherwise influence the moisture supplying capacity of soil, are important variables in assessing site suitability for yellow-poplar growth. The best growth usually occurs on north and east aspects, on lower slopes, in sheltered coves, and on gentle, concave slopes.
Low levels of soil nutrients-most frequently nitrogen-have occasionally been linked to slow rates of growth for yellow-poplar. Also, naturally occurring levels of phosphorous and potassium can limit growth. However, soil physical properties far overshadow chemical properties in determining distribution and growth of yellow-poplar.
Effects of temperature and moisture extremes are tempered somewhat by local topography. At the northern end of its range, yellow-poplar is usually found in valleys and stream bottoms at elevations below 300 m (1,000 ft). In the southern Appalachians, it may grow on a variety of sites, including stream bottoms, coves, and moist slopes up to an elevation of about 1370 m (4,500 ft). Toward the southern limit of the range, where high temperatures and soil moisture probably become limiting, the species usually is confined to moist, but well-drained, stream bottoms. Optimum development of yellow-poplar occurs where rainfall is well distributed over a long growing season.
Natural regeneration of tulip poplar is usually by stump sprouts and seed. Regeneration from seed requires a seedbed of mineral soil, adequate soil moisture, sufficient direct sunlight for early growth; seedlings are intolerant of shade.
Forest plantings are planted at spacings ranging from 6' x 7' to 10' x 10'. One year old nursery grown seedlings are used.
Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Aurantiporus fissilis is saprobic on large, dead, standing trunk of Liriodendron tulipifera
Foodplant / saprobe
scattered, long covered by periodem which is the raised and perforated pycnidium of Phomopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Phomopsis liriodendri is saprobic on dead branch of Liriodendron tulipifera
Remarks: season: 3,6,7
Associated Forest Cover
Loblolly Pine (Type 81), Loblolly Pine-Hardwood (Type 82), and Swamp Chestnut Oak-Cherrybark Oak (Type 91).
On bottom lands and on the better drained soils of the Coastal Plain, yellow-poplar grows in mixture with the tupelos (Nyssa spp.), baldcypress (Taxodium distichum), oaks Quercus spp.), red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). In the Piedmont, associated species include oaks, sweetgum, blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), red maple, loblolly pine, shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), Virginia pine (P virginiana), hickories (Carya spp.), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), and redcedar (Juniperus virginiana).
At lower elevations in the Appalachian Mountains, yellow-poplar is found with black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), white pine (Pinus strobus), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), hickories, white oak (Quercus alba), other oaks, black walnut (Juglans nigra), yellow pines, flowering dogwood, sourwood, sweet birch (Betula lenta), blackgum, basswood (Tilia americana), and Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina). At higher elevations, associated species include northern red oak (Quercus rubra), white ash (Fraxinus americana), black cherry (Prunus serotina), cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata), yellow buckeye (Aesculus octandra), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis). Trees associated with yellow-poplar in nonmountainous areas of the North and Midwest include white oak, black oak Quercus velutina), northern red oak, ash, beech, sugar maple, blackgum, dogwood, and hickories.
Pure stands of yellow-poplar occupy only a small percentage of the total land within the range of the species, but they are usually on productive sites that include some of the most valuable timber-producing forests in eastern North America. It has been repeatedly observed in the southern Appalachians that the percentage of yellow-poplar increases noticeably with increasing quality of the site. Where yellow-poplar grows in pure, or nearly pure, stands on medium and lower quality sites, it probably originated on abandoned old fields.
Diseases and Parasites
Fire scars, logging damage, animal and bird damage, top breakage, dying limbs, and decaying parent stumps all provide entry for decay-causing fungi (16). Probably the most common type of decay associated with basal wounding and decaying stumps is a soft, spongy, white or gray rot caused by the fungus Armillaria mellea. A white heartwood rot caused by Collybia velutipes often is associated with top breakage and dying limbs. Species of the genus Nectria have been associated with stem cankers. Incidence of this disease and mortality from it was greatest on low-vigor trees.
A canker caused by Fusarium solani was isolated from large yellow-poplars in Ohio and was shown to cause characteristic cankers through pathogenicity studies. Some mortality results during periods of drought, but F solani apparently is not a virulent pathogen and causes damage only when the host is weakened by unfavorable environmental factors.
Dieback and associated stem canker of yellow-poplar saplings were reported to have resulted in considerable mortality in some stands. A fungus of the genus Myxosporium was associated with dead bark of infected trees and was shown to cause canker formation after experimental inoculations. Identical dieback symptoms were reported for scattered areas throughout the South. Symptoms included chlorosis of leaves, sparse crown, dieback, trunk and branch cankers, and epicormic sprouting. Several fungal species were consistently isolated from cankered trees, but there was uncertainty about the causative agent. The severity and extent of infection are greater in upland sites than in bottom-land sites. All canker-forming diseases reported for yellow-poplar appear to be confined to, or most severe on, trees that are low in vigor because of drought, poor site, or competition.
A nursery root-rot disease caused by Cylindrocladium scoparium causes root and stem lesions. It is frequently lethal in nursery beds and causes low survival and poor growth when infected seedlings are outplanted. Extensive root damage and mortality in a 27-year-old yellow-poplar plantation have been reported.
Yellow-poplar logs, especially when cut in warmer seasons, are subject to rapid deterioration because of attacks of wood-staining fungi that feed largely on the starch and sugars in the green sapwood and penetrate deeply while the wood is moist. The most common rapid-staining species is Ceratocystis pluriannulata.
Yellow-poplar seedlings and saplings have thin bark and are extremely susceptible to fire damage.
Even a light ground fire is usually fatal to small stems up to 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter. These stems resprout after fire, but repeated fires may eliminate yellow-poplar from a site. When the bark becomes thick enough to insulate the cambium (about 1.3 cm; 0.5 in), yellow-poplar becomes extremely fire resistant.
Sleet and glaze storms, which occur periodically within the range of yellow-poplar, may cause considerable damage. Stump sprouts are particularly susceptible to injury, slender trees may be broken off, and tops of dominant and codominant trees are often broken. Top damage is often the point of entry for fungi. Although yellow-poplar usually makes remarkable recovery after such storms, repeated damage can result in a growth reduction and loss of quality.
The leaves, twigs, and branches of yellow-poplar are tender and palatable to livestock and white-tailed deer, and young trees are often heavily browsed. Seedlings are grazed to the ground, small saplings are trimmed back, and even large saplings may be ridden down and severely damaged. In areas where animals are concentrated, young yellow-poplar is frequently eliminated. Rabbits also eat the bark and buds of seedlings and saplings and can be quite destructive at times.
When the sap is running in the spring, yellow-poplar is very susceptible to logging damage. If a falling tree strikes a standing poplar, there is often considerable bark loss up and down the bole of the standing tree. Even if the bark appears only lightly bruised, it may subsequently dry up and fall off in long strips.
Frost, especially in frost pockets, can affect the early growth and development of yellow-poplar. Following a late spring frost in a 20-year-old plantation, it was found that leaf mortality varied from 5 to 100 percent of the leaves on the individual trees. Leaf mortality was lowest on trees with a high foliar content of potassium. Frost may also cause bole damage in the form of shake, a separation of growth rings resulting in cull. A weather-induced defect called blister shake, related to frost shake, was described in 30-year-old yellow-poplar trees in West Virginia.
Vines can be extremely damaging to yellow-poplar. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), kudzu (Pueraria lobata), and climbing bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) have been known to have deleterious effects on yellow-poplar in isolated cases. However, the most widespread damage throughout the Appalachians results from wild grapevines (Vitis spp.) (36,41), particularly on good sites that have been regenerated naturally by clearcutting. Many forest managers and researchers consider grape the most serious threat to production of high-quality yellow-poplar timber in the Appalachian region. Grapevines damage young trees by breaking limbs and tops, twisting and bending the main stem, and intercepting solar radiation. The result is reduced growth, malformation of stem and crown, and sometimes death of the trees. Grapevines also worsen winter storm damage in some areas by furnishing increased surface area for accumulation of ice and snow.
Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire
While mature yellow-poplar is very fire resistant, the saplings are
susceptible to fire . In a 5-year-old stand burned with varying
severities, the densities of saplings over 4.5 feet (1.4 m) in height 3
years (areas 1 and 3) and 2 years (areas 2 and 4) after fire had
decreased significantly from prefire densities. Sapling densities
(stems/acre) were as follows :
Area 1 Area 2 Area 3 Area 4
Burn Burn No Burn Burn
(Moderate) (Light) (Control) (Severe)
Saplings 709 74 677 294
Postfire change -438 -21 +23 -8
Severe basal wounding of 8- to 18-inch-diameter yellow-poplars had no
significant effect on diameter growth rate 7 to 14 years after a fire
The following Research Project Summaries provide information on prescribed
fire and postfire response of plant community species, including
yellow-poplar, that was not available when this species review was written:
Plant Response to Fire
Sprouting: Yellow-poplar sprouts from the root crown following top-kill
by fire [2,16].
Seedling establishment: Prescribed fire enhances the regeneration of
yellow-poplar by releasing seed stored on the forest floor .
Following fall prescribed fire in the Upper Piedmont of South Carolina,
the number and height growth of yellow-poplar seedlings were
significantly higher on burned than on unburned plots. After one
growing season, the burned plots had about 12,000 seedlings per acre;
the unburned, 2,000. After three growing seasons, seedlings on the
burned plots averaged 3.5 feet (1.06 m) in height; seedlings on the
unburned plots averaged 3.0 feet (0.91 m) .
Broad-scale Impacts of Fire
Compared with other hardwoods, yellow-poplar is relatively resistance to
fire-damage-induced decay. A study comparing wound size with amounts of
bark discoloration found that yellow-poplars were more resistant to
wounding than oaks. Even when large amounts of bark were discolored,
larger diameter yellow-poplars developed only small wounds .
Several studies have determined that within a given size class,
yellow-poplar is generally more resistant to fire damage than oaks .
Immediate Effect of Fire
very susceptible to fire damage. Fire generally kills young trees less
than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Once bark is thick enough to insulate
the cambium (0.5 inch [1.3 cm]), yellow-poplar becomes extremely
resistant to fire damage [1,2]. Little mortality occurs once trees are
greater than 3 or 4 inches d.b.h. . Yellow-poplar seeds are
generally resistant to heat damage .
Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
Mature yellow-poplars have bark sufficiently thick (> 0.5 inch [1 cm])
to insulate the cambium layer and allow trees to survive low- to
moderate-severity fire. Trees top-killed by fire sprout from dormant
buds located on the root crown . Fire can enhance yellow-poplar
seedling establishment .
More info for the term: succession
Obligate Initial Community Species
Yellow-poplar is a shade-intolerant, pioneer species. It often invades
open sites, and in old-field succession it occurs in pure or nearly pure
Yellow-poplar is mainly insect pollinated, with some selfing. It a
prolific seed producer. It first produces seed at 15 to 20 years of age
and continues to do so for more than 200 years . Heavy seed crops
tend to compensate for low seed viability (around 5-20 percent) .
The samaras are wind dispersed to distances 4 and 5 times the height of
the parent tree. The samaras remain viable in the seedbank for up to 8
years [5,16,19]. Seeds require a cold stratification period, and
germination rates vary with time and temperature. Generally as
temperature decreases and time increases the germination rate increases;
for example, 90 percent germination occurred after 140 days at 36
degrees Fahrenheit (2 deg C) [1,3]. Germination is epigeal and occurs
when seeds remain constantly moist for several weeks [3,5]. Germination
is enhanced on mineral soil or on well-decomposed humus .
Yellow-poplar sprouts from dormant buds located on the root crown after
cutting and/or fire. Sprouting decreases with age, as the bark becomes
too thick for the bud to break through [2,16]. Initially sprout growth
surpasses seedling growth, but at 25 to 35 years seedling regeneration
height catches and surpasses sprout regeneration height .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Reaction to Competition
It is often a pioneer on abandoned old fields or clearcut land and may form essentially pure stands on very good sites. More often it regenerates as a mixed type with other species, and it commonly persists in old-growth stands as scattered individuals.
Yellow-poplar expresses dominance well and seldom, if ever, stagnates because of excessive stand density. It prunes very well in closed stands. Although it produces epicormic sprouts when the bole is exposed, this trait is less pronounced than in many other hardwood species. Because of these growth characteristics, yellow-poplar stands can develop and produce considerable quantities of large, high-quality products with no intermediate stand management.
In the seedling-sapling stage, dominant and codominant trees are little affected by thinning or cleaning (21,39). Intermediate or overtopped trees of good vigor respond to release in both diameter and height growth (46). Cultural treatment of seedling-sapling stands is seldom needed or justified, however, except to remove vines (12).
By the time stands reach pole size at 20 to 30 years of age, the peak rates of growth and mortality are past and the crown canopy is closed. Crown size on surviving trees is reduced and diameter growth is considerably slowed. Thinnings that salvage or prevent mortality, increase the growth of residual trees, shorten rotations, and increase the yield of high-value timber products are the essence of intermediate stand management. The net result of numerous thinning experiments is that individual yellow-poplar trees tend to use the space and accelerate diameter increment (4,5,9,29). Response occurs across a wide range of sites and stand ages, even in stands as old as 80 years that have never been thinned previously. Total cubic-volume growth is greatest at the highest densities and would be maximized by very light, frequent thinnings that prevent or salvage mortality. On the other hand, board-foot volume growth is maximum at densities well below those that maximize cubic-foot volume growth. Board-foot growth is near maximum over a wide range of density. Thus, there is considerable leeway to manipulate stocking levels to achieve diameter growth and quality goals without sacrificing volume growth of the high-value products.
Life History and Behavior
Yellow poplar flowers from April to June; seeds mature from August to
late October. Peak samara dispersal is from October to November, with a
few falling as late as March [2,26].
Trees of sprout origin are more subject to butt rot than those of seedling origin (42). Nevertheless, a high percentage of stumps that sprout produce at least one stem that is well anchored, vigorous, and of desirable quality for crop-tree development (20). In this respect, position on stump is important to subsequent development. Sprouts arising from roots or from the stump below groundline usually lack a heartwood connection with the stump heartwood because the roots and below-ground portions of the stump do not normally contain heartwood. Sapwood tissues separating heartwood columns of stumps and sprouts may prevent heart rot fungi, which enters the stump heartwood, from spreading to the heartwood of the sprout.
The initial growth rate of yellow-poplar sprouts far exceeds that of young seedlings. In western North Carolina, the dominant sprout on each of 60 stumps on a good site grew an average of 1.4 m (4.7 ft) per year over the first 6 years (2). At age 24, these sprouts averaged 24.4 in (80 ft) in height and 24 cm (9.6 in) d.b.h. In West Virginia, the dominant stem of each sprout clump grew at the rate of 0.9 in (2.9 ft) per year for 11 years on a medium-quality site for yellow-poplar (44). The rapid, early growth rate begins to drop off rnarkedly somewhere between 20 and 30 years. At this time, seedlings of similar age may catch up and exceed sprouts in rate of height growth.
A number of investigators have attempted to root yellow-poplar cuttings, but most early attempts were not successful. In a more recent study, cuttings were rooted successfully after they were dipped in dolebutyric acid and a mist of water was sprayed over the propagation bed (6). It is not known, however, whether these rooted cuttings would have successfully survived outplanting. Yellow-poplar has been successfully rooted from stump sprouts of 7-year-old trees; soft-tissue cuttings placed in a mist bed began rooting in 4 weeks and successfully survived transplanting. A system of splitting seedlings longitudinally and then propagating the halves was also highly successful. However, splitting seedlings provides only one additional new plant from the ortet, while rooting stump sprouts provides several.
A technique for propagating yellow-poplar by making use of its epicormic branching ability has recently been described (24). Partial girdling into the outer one or two annual rings results in a profusion of epicormic sprouts that can then be rooted in the same way as stump sprouts. This method has the advantage of preserving the selected ortet for repeated use. Experience with this method, however, reveals that not every girdled tree will sprout well. Young trees and trees with low vigor are better sprouters than old trees and rapidly growing trees.
Germinating yellow-poplar seedlings need a suitable seedbed and adequate moisture to survive and become established. Seed germination and seedling development is better on mineral soils or well-decomposed organic matter than on a thick, undecomposed litter layer.
Scarification and fires, which put seeds in contact with mineral soil, increases the number of seedlings established significantly (10,33). Under normal conditions, however, the site disturbance caused by logging the mature stand is the only seedbed preparation needed to provide enough yellow-poplar seedlings for a new stand. In Indiana, I year after cutting, there were 9,900 yellow-poplar seedlings per hectare (4,000/acre) on a plot that was clearcut, and 12,000/ha (4,800/acre) on partially cut plots. In western North Carolina, more than 124,000 seedlings/ha (50,000/acre) followed both clearcuts and partial cuts that removed as little as one-third the basal area (26). On occasional sites, deep accumulations of litter may require some seedbed treatment, particularly on the drier sites dominated by oaks or beech, and both disking and burning have proven effective. These treatments have also been recommended for sites with few seeds in the forest floor, especially if the site is covered with dense herbaceous growth.
Yellow-poplar seedlings reach maximum or near-maximum photosynthetic efficiency at relatively low light intensities, as low as 3 to 10 percent of full sunlight (29,31). Growth was poor, however, under an overstory canopy where the amount of sunlight reaching the forest floor was limited to 1.33 percent; where herbaceous cover existed, it was only 0. 13 percent. Sufficient sunlight can be admitted by various cutting practices. Harvest cuts ranging from removal of 30 percent of basal area to complete clearcuts have resulted in establishment and growth of large numbers of seedlings. Clearcutting, seed-tree cutting, and shelterwood cutting have all been used successfully to regenerate yellow-poplar (26,28,38,45). However, when partial cuts such as shelterwood are used, height growth is severely limited by the overstory. Seedlings in clearcuts may be two to three times taller than seedlings under a shelterwood after the first 5 to 10 years.
The minimum size opening that can be used to regenerate yellow-poplar is fairly small (10). Numbers of seedlings per hectare vary little in openings of 0.12 to 12.36 ha (0.05 to 5 acres). Opening size, however, does affect growth significantly. Both diameter and height are retarded in openings smaller than 1.24 to 2.47 ha (0.5 to 1 acre).
Season of logging, though not of critical importance, does have some effect on establishment and growth of yellow-poplar seedlings (40). In West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana, summer logging produced fewer seedlings than logging at other times of the year. Apparently, in summer-logged stands most of the seeds did not germinate until the following year, and these small seedlings were not as well able to compete with the rank vegetation that started the previous year. Nevertheless, cuttings in summer months usually have produced sufficient seedlings where a good seed source previously was present. If seed supply is expected to be scarce, logging in fall, winter, or early spring might be advisable.
After germination, several critical years follow. During this period sufficient soil moisture must be available, good drainage and protection against drying and frost heaving are necessary, and there must be no severe competition from nearby sprout growth. In a study in which various mulches were used to induce soil temperature variation, seedlings grew faster in warm soil than in cool soil. Soil temperatures as high as 36.1° C (97° F) had a beneficial effect on seedling growth. Yellow-poplar seedlings normally survive dormant-season flooding, but it was found that 1-year-old seedlings were usually killed by 4 days or more of flooding during the growing season (23). This vulnerability during the growing season explains why yellow-poplar does not grow on flood plains of rivers that flood periodically for several days at a time. After the first growing season, vegetative competition may become the most important factor affecting survival and growth. Reducing competition by cutting, burning, disking, or by using herbicides may be needed to assure success.
On favorable sites the success of regeneration can usually be determined by the size and vigor of the seedlings at the end of the third year. Height growth during the first year ranges from a few centimeters to more than 0.3 m (1 ft) on the best sites. With full light, rapid height growth begins the second year, and at the end of 5 years trees may be 3 to 5.5 in (10 to 18 ft) tall. During its seedling and sapling stages, yellow-poplar is capable of making extremely rapid growth. An 11-year-old natural seedling 15.2 m (50 ft) tall has been recorded.
The behavior and duration of height growth of yellow-poplar vary by latitude. In a Pennsylvania study, seedlings had a 95-day height-growth period beginning late in April and ending about August 1. A sharp peak in height growth was reached about June 1. In a northwestern Connecticut study, yellow-poplar had a 110-day height-growth period beginning in late April and ending in mid-August. Ninety percent of this growth took place in a 60-day period from May 20 to July 20, and a sharp peak in height growth was noted in the middle of June. In a study conducted in the lower Piedmont of North Carolina, yellow-poplar had a 160-day height-growth period beginning in early April and ending about the middle of September. Growth was fairly constant, and there was no peak in growth rate during the growing season.
Seed Production and Dissemination
Yellow-poplar is a prolific seeder, and large crops are produced almost annually (29,31). In North Carolina, a 25-cm (10-in) tree produced 750 cones with 7,500 sound seeds, and a 51-cm (20-in) tree produced 3,250 cones with 29,000 sound seeds. A seedfall of 741,000 to 1,482,000/ha (300,000 to 600,000/acre) is not uncommon. Measurement of the 1966 seed crop in 19 southern Appalachian stands showed an average of 3.7 million seeds per hectare (1.5 million/acre). Seed size is highly variable, the number per kilogram ranging from 11,000 to 40,000 (5,000 to 18,000/lb). In general, southern seeds are larger than northern ones.
The individual, winged samaras may be scattered by the wind to distances equal to four or five times the height of a tree. In southern Indiana, a seedfall pattern was shown to be oval, with the center north of the seed tree. Prevailing south and southwest winds occasionally carried seeds more than 183 m (600 ft). Distribution of filled seeds occurred in satisfactory numbers-2,470 to 24,700/ha (1,000 to 10,000/acre)-as far as 60 rn (200 ft) from a good seed tree in the direction of the prevailing wind and 30 m (100 ft) in all other directions.
Yellow-poplar seeds retain their viability in the forest floor from 4 to 7 years (11). Large quantities of seeds in the forest floor are capable of producing seedlings when suitable environmental conditions exist. In West Virginia, a study in three 40-year-old stands with 101 to 470 yellow-poplar trees per hectare (41 to 190/acre) showed from 240,000 to 475,000 sound seeds per hectare (97,000 to 192,000/acre) in the forest floor (17). These seeds produced between 138,000 to 190,000 seedlings per hectare (56,000 to 77,000/acre) when transferred to an open area and kept well watered.
Flowering and Fruiting
Growth and Yield
Table 1-Height and d.b.h. of dominant yellow-poplar trees in inthinned stands, by site index (1,3)¹ Age Site index 25 m or 82 ft 30 m or 98 ft 35 m or 125ft Height D.b.h. Height D.b.h. Height D.b.h. yr m cm m cm m cm 20 13.4 17 15.8 21 18.6 25 30 18.9 25 22.6 30 26.5 36 40 22.6 30 27.1 37 31.4 43 50 25 34 29.9 41 35.1 48 60 26.8 37 32.3 44 37.5 52 70 28.3 39 33.8 46 39.6 55 80 29.3 40 35.1 49 41.1 57 90 30.2 41 36.3 50 42.1 59 100 30.8 42 36.9 51 43.3 60 yr ft in ft in ft in 20 44 6.7 52 8.2 61 9.8 30 62 9.9 74 12 87 14.2 40 74 12 89 14.5 103 17 50 82 13.4 98 16.2 115 19 60 88 14.4 106 17.4 123 20.4 70 93 15.2 ill 18.3 130 21.6 80 96 15.8 115 19.1 135 22.4 90 99 16.3 119 19.7 138 23.1 100 101 16.7 121 20.2 142 23.7 ¹Based upon the average height and d.b.h. of the 62 largest trees per hectacre (25/acre).
Height and d.b.h. expected of the 25 largest trees per acre in unthinned second-growth southern Appalachian stands are shown in table 1. These data represent an average dominant tree grown under fully stocked stand conditions. The largest trees would be 7.6 to 12.7 cm (3 to 5 in) larger than the average dominant at comparable ages. Table 2 shows selected empirical yields for natural stands (3,27). Mean annual increment in total cubic volume ranges from 5.2 to 11.6 m³/ha (75 to 165 ft³ /acre), depending on site, at culmination around 70 years of age.
Table 2-Empirical yields for unthinned yellow-poplar stands in the southern Appalachians¹ Volume by age class in years² Basal area 20 30 40 50 60 m²/ha m²/ha Site index 25 m 15 68 94 110 121 129 25 150 207 243 267 285 35 253 348 409 450 480 Site index 30 m 15 82 113 132 146 155 25 181 249 292 321 342 35 304 418 491 540 576 Site index 35 m 15 93 129 151 166 177 25 206 283 332 366 390 35 346 477 559 616 656 ft²/acre ft²/acre Site index 82 ft 65 974 1,341 1,574 1,732 1,847 109 2,147 2,956 3,469 3,818 4,070 152 3,614 4,976 5,839 6,427 6,851 Site index 98 ft 65 1,170 1,611 1,890 2,080 2,218 109 2,579 3,551 4,166 4,586 4,889 152 4,341 5,976 7,012 7,718 8,228 Site index 115 ft 65 1,333 1,836 2,154 2,371 2,528 109 2,939 4,047 4,749 5,227 5,572 152 4,947 6,812 7,992 8,797 9,378
¹All trees 13 cm (5in) and larger in d.b.h.
²Volume includes wood and bark of the intire bole.
Evolution and Systematics
The leaves of trees deal with strong winds by adjusting their configurations in order to reduce exposure and limit flutter.
"Leaves--trees, really--have a problem, the same one as our solar panels. Their function, trapping solar energy photosynthetically, demands exposure of lots of area skyward…[Nature] arranges leaves and their attachments so they adjust their configurations and thus reduce their exposure and flutter as the wind increases. Motive force presents no problem, even for these nonmuscular structures, because the wind itself provides more than enough. Photosynthesis? Intermittently strong winds come mostly with reduced sunlight, so temporary reduction in exposure to sky can't entail a great long-term cost…Figure 1.5a shows what one kind of leaf, that of a tulip poplar, does at a series of increasing wind speeds. This curling into a tightening cone characterizes quite a few kinds of leaves--including maples, sweet gums, sycamores (plane trees), and redbuds…All are characterized by relatively long petioles (leaf stems) and lobes on their blades that protrude back toward their parent branches from the point of attachment of their petioles. What appears to happen (based on observation and crude models) is that the lobes, upwind because leaves always extend downwind like kites on strings, bend upward (abaxially, technically) and get the curling started…This curling into cones dramatically reduces drag--at least if we pick the right item for a comparative baseline…Another wind-dependent reconfiguration, one in which the leaflets of a pinnately compound leaf such as black walnut or black locust roll up around their axial rachis, does a bit better...The very stiff leaves on a branch of a holly (Ilex americana) swing inward toward the branch and lie, one against another, in a common sandwichlike pile. Pine needles cluster instead of being splayed outward…The solution…involves two aspects as common in nature's technology as they are rare in our own. First, shape isn't held constant, but rather shape and the forces of flow interact complexly, each dependent on the other. The local wind forces on a leaf depend (in part) on its shape; its shape, in turn, depends (in part) on the local wind forces. Second, variable circumstances are dealt with by altering functional priorities. Photosynthesis, overall, matters far more than drag minimization; in storms, though, such priorities must reverse." (Vogel 2003: 8-10)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Steven Vogel. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 580 p.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Varying degrees of genetic control have been demonstrated for wood and tree properties such as specific gravity and fiber length; straightness; branch angle; natural pruning ability; leaf, fruit, and seed characteristics; disease resistance; growth of seedlings; and length of growing season. For other important traits, such as the tendency to produce epicormic sprouts, evidence exists that the trait is strongly inherited although this has not yet been demonstrated conclusively.
A growth chamber study revealed that seedlings of northern and southern origin responded very differently to day-length treatments (43). A day length of 18 hours inhibited the northern source but not the southern. The most consistent difference among geographic seed sources has appeared in dormancy relationships. In general, the more northern sources start growth later and cease earlier than the more southern sources. Few studies are old enough to permit good comparisons of volume differences for different seed sources, but significant differences in early height growth have been reported.
While most geographic differences are associated with latitude of source, there are good indications that environmental differences associated with altitude are also important. In North Carolina, a clinal pattern of variation existed from coast to mountain for a number of seed and leaf characteristics (19).
Races At least one distinct ecotype of yellow-poplar has been confirmed. First evidence came from a plantation near Charleston, SC, where trees from a Coastal Plain source in eastern North Carolina were twice as tall 3 years after outplanting as those from a mountain source in western North Carolina (29). Later, a source from the Coastal Plain of North Carolina performed poorly in comparison to upland sources when planted at a Piedmont location but was far superior to upland sources when planted on organic soils of the Coastal Plain where pH values seldom exceed 4.0 (19). Yellow-poplar of the coastal source has a distinctive leaf pattern and color-rounded lobes and copperish-red leaves. It is apparently adapted to the highly acidic, water-saturated organic soils of the Coastal Plain and is able to withstand periodic inundation without harm (32). Sources with the distinctive leaf characteristics have been found as far south as Florida.
Root-bark contains liriodendrin in the bitter resin, and the alkaloid tulipiferin.
Barcode data: Liriodendron tulipifera
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Liriodendron tulipifera
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 11
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).
Pests and potential problems
Tulip poplar is unusually free from insects and disease. The yellow-poplar weevil, nectria canker, and fusarium canker are three of the more important enemies of this species.
This species is prone to wind damage and ice damage in exposed situations.
Insects: Compared with other commercial species, yellow-poplar is
relatively free of pests. Only four insect species have important
impact on harvest. Tuliptree scale (Toumeyella liriodendri) and
yellow-poplar weevil (Odontopus calceatus) feed on the buds and stems.
Root collar borer (Euzophera ostricolorella) and Columbian timber beetle
(Corthtlus columbianus) bore into the bole and root crown, providing
pathways for other pathogens to enter the tree. The Columbian timber
beetle also lowers lumber grade by creating a large black streak above
and below beetle burrow entries [1,2,24].
Silviculture: Clearcutting is the recommended harvest method for
yellow-poplar. Its seeds survive for 4 to 8 years on the forest floor,
making seed tree cuts unnecessary . When yellow-poplar is harvested
in warm seasons, the wood is susceptible to a wood-staining fungi
(Ceratocystis spp.) which lowers the lumber grade. Rapid processing of
the logs in warm seasons reduces monetary losses from staining .
Season of harvest can have an impact on establishment and growth of
yellow-poplar seedlings. In stands logged in late spring or summer,
seeds may not germinate until the following year; these seedlings may
not be able to compete with vegetation started the previous year.
However, where a good seed source was previously present, summer
cuttings usually produce an adequate number of seedlings. If the seed
supply in the litter is scarce, fall, winter, or early spring harvesting
may aid in seedling establishment .
Yellow-poplar is shade intolerant and responds well to overstory
thinning. Yellow-poplar was four times taller and five times larger in
dbh in an 18-year-old stand where all the overstory vegetation had been
removed than in the control . Lamson  has provided information
on thinning. Yellow-poplar responds well to fertilization. It grew
twice as tall on sites fertilized with diammonium phosphate at a rate of
500 pounds per acre (562 kg/ha) than on control sites .
Pollution: Yellow-poplar is very sensitive to high ozone concentrations .
Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)
There are selections from tree nurseries.
The rapid growth of tulip poplar can present a challenge to other tree species in a mixed stand. This should influence the numbers of tulip poplar included in a mixed planting for conservation purposes, and may require thinning to maintain the values provided by other species. Moderate thinnings at 8-10 year intervals are recommended for timber production.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Root: Bark is bitter, aromatic, febrifuge. Leaf: Bruised leaves used to treat cephalalgia.
Other uses and values
Yellow-poplar has been valued as an ornamental since 1663. The
tuliplike flowers and leaves are aesthetically pleasing . The
flowers are also valuable nectar producers. The flowers from a
20-year-old tree produce enough nectar to yield 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of
Yellow-poplar was used medicinally in the late 1800's: a heart
stimulant was extracted from the inner bark of the root , and a
tonic for treating rheumatism and dyspepsia was extracted from stem bark
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
Yellow-poplar has been planted onto surface coal mine reclamation sites
with variable results, but total failures are rare [7,29]. One-year-old
seedlings planted on sites in Kentucky and Illinois showed good survival
rates (24 percent) for 30 years after planting. Yellow-poplar should be
planted in mixtures with other hardwoods. Yellow-poplar growth under
decadent black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in Indiana was good. In
eastern Kentucky height growth nearly doubled when yellow-poplar was
interplanted with European alder (Alnus glutinosa) . One-year-old
seedlings are recommended for planting .
The lower pH limit for yellow-poplar on acid mine spoils is 4.5 .
Liming the spoils before planting has improved yellow-poplar
establishment on acid spoils in Pennsylvania .
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Livestock prefer the foliage and stems of yellow-poplar over those of
other tree species. Young trees are often heavily browsed, and
seedlings are frequently eliminated by browsing or trampling .
Cattle or other browsers create "browse lines" on older trees .
White-tailed deer browse yellow-poplar during all seasons .
Northern bobwhites, purple finches, cottontails, red squirrels, gray
squirrels, and white-footed mice consume the samaras .
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers use the phloem, and ruby-throated hummingbirds
consume nectar from the flowers .
Wood Products Value
. It has straight grain, little shrinkage, and excellent gluing
qualities . In the past is was used for carriage bodies, shingles,
saddle frames, and interior finish wood. It is currently used for
cabinets, veneer, furniture, and pulp . Yellow-poplar has only fair
value as a fuelwood but good value as kindling .
cover for white-tailed deer, small mammals, upland game birds,
waterfowl, and nongame birds . They provide habitat for the
endangered red-cockaded woodpecker .
white-tailed deer, small mammals, upland game birds, and songbirds .
Yellow-poplar, with its shiny green leaves, distinctive flower, and statuesque appearance, is an excellent ornamental for park and garden where there is adequate space to accommodate its large size. It has distinctive value as a honey tree (25). In one season a tree less than 20 years old reportedly yields 3.6 kg (8 lb) of nectar equal to 1.8 kg (4 lb) of honey. It has nominal value as a source of wildlife food in comparison to some other species, but its seeds are eaten by quails, purple finches, rabbits, gray squirrels, and white-footed mice. Because of its greater volume per acre, which is due to its greater density and height, yellow-poplar on very good sites may produce more dry-weight yield per acre than species such as oak with much denser wood. It may have potential as a producer of wood fiber for energy and other uses.
The wood of tulip poplar is moderately light, soft, brittle, moderately weak, and is very easily worked. It is used for furniture stock, veneer and pulpwood.
Tulip poplar makes a desirable street, shade, or ornamental tree but the large size it attains makes it unsuited for many sites. Its good points for aesthetic use are: (1) rapid growth (2) pyramidal form (3) resistance to insect and disease damage (4) unusual leaves and attractive flowers, and (5) yellow autumnal color.
This species has some wildlife value. The fruits provide food for squirrels in the late fall and winter months, and the white-tailed deer often browse on the twigs.
Tulip poplar is planted for reforestation purposes because of its rapid growth and the commercial importance of its wood, and is often planted as an ornamental. Tulip poplar and white pine were the largest trees in the eastern forest.
Liriodendron tulipifera — known as the tulip tree, American tulip tree, tuliptree, tulip poplar, whitewood, fiddle-tree, and yellow poplar — is the Western Hemisphere representative of the two-species genus Liriodendron, and the tallest eastern hardwood. It is native to eastern North America from Southern Ontario and Illinois eastward to Connecticut and southern New York, and south to central Florida and Louisiana. It can grow to more than 50 m (165 feet) in virgin cove forests of the Appalachian Mountains, often with no limbs until it reaches 25–30 m (80–100 feet) in height, making it a very valuable timber tree. It is fast-growing, without the common problems of weak wood strength and short lifespan often seen in fast-growing species. April marks the start of the flowering period in the southern USA (except as noted below); trees at the northern limit of cultivation begin to flower in June. The flowers are pale green or yellow (rarely white), with an orange band on the tepals; they yield large quantities of nectar. The tulip tree is the state tree of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The tulip tree is one of the largest of the native trees of the eastern United States, known to reach the height of 190 feet (58 m), with a trunk 10 feet (3 m) in diameter; its ordinary height is 70 feet (21 m) to 100 feet (30 m). It prefers deep, rich, and rather moist soil; it is common, though not abundant, nor is it solitary. Its roots are fleshy. Growth is fairly rapid, and the typical form of its head is conical.
The bark is brown, and furrowed. The branchlets are smooth, and lustrous, initially reddish, maturing to dark gray, and finally brown. Aromatic and bitter. The wood is light yellow to brown, and the sapwood creamy white; light, soft, brittle, close, straight-grained. Sp. gr., 0.4230; weight of cu. ft., 26.36 lbs.
- Winter buds: Dark red, covered with a bloom, obtuse; scales becoming conspicuous stipules for the unfolding leaf, and persistent until the leaf is fully grown. Flower-bud enclosed in a two-valved, caducous bract.
The alternate leaves are simple, pinnately veined, measuring five to six inches long and wide. They have four lobes, and are heart-shaped or truncate or slightly wedge-shaped at base, entire, and the apex cut across at a shallow angle, making the upper part of the leaf look square; midrib and primary veins prominent. They come out of the bud recurved by the bending down of the petiole near the middle bringing the apex of the folded leaf to the base of the bud, light green, when full grown are bright green, smooth and shining above, paler green beneath, with downy veins. In autumn they turn a clear, bright yellow. Petiole long, slender, angled.
- Flowers: May. Perfect, solitary, terminal, greenish yellow, borne on stout peduncles, an inch and a half to two inches long, cup-shaped, erect, conspicuous. The bud is enclosed in a sheath of two triangular bracts which fall as the blossom opens.
- Calyx: Sepals three, imbricate in bud, reflexed or spreading, somewhat veined, early deciduous.
- Corolla: Cup-shaped, petals six, two inches long, in two rows, imbricate, hypogynous, greenish yellow, marked toward the base with yellow. Somewhat fleshy in texture.
- Stamens: Indefinite, imbricate in many ranks on the base of the receptacle; filaments thread-like, short; anthers extrorse, long, two-celled, adnate; cells opening longitudinally.
- Pistils: Indefinite, imbricate on the long slender receptacle. Ovary one-celled; style acuminate, flattened; stigma short, one-sided, recurved; ovules two.
- Fruit: Narrow light brown cone, formed by many samara-like carpels which fall, leaving the axis persistent all winter. September, October.
The leaves are of unusual shape and develop in a most peculiar and characteristic manner. The leaf-buds are composed of scales as is usual, and these scales grow with the growing shoot. In this respect the buds do not differ from those of many other trees, but what is peculiar is that each pair of scales develops so as to form an oval envelope which contains the young leaf and protects it against changing temperatures until it is strong enough to sustain them without injury. When it has reached that stage the bracts separate, the tiny leaf comes out carefully folded along the line of the midrib, opens as it matures, and until it becomes full grown the bracts do duty as stipules, becoming an inch or more in length before they fall. The leaf is unique in shape, its apex is cut off at the end in a way peculiarly its own, the petioles are long, angled, and so poised that the leaves flutter independently, and their glossy surfaces so catch and toss the light that the effect of the foliage as a whole is much brighter than it otherwise would be.
The flowers are large, brilliant, and on detached trees numerous. Their color is greenish yellow with dashes of red and orange, and their resemblance to a tulip very marked. They do not droop from the spray but sit erect. The fruit is a cone two to three inches long, made of a great number of thin narrow scales attached to a common axis. These scales are each a carpel surrounded by a thin membranous ring. Each cone contains sixty or seventy of these scales, of which only a few are productive. These fruit cones remain on the tree in varied states of dilapidation throughout the winter.
One of the largest and most valuable hardwoods of eastern North America, it is native from Connecticut and southern New York, westward to northern Ohio, and south to Louisiana and northern Florida. It is found sparingly in New England, it is abundant on the southern shore of Lake Erie and westward to Illinois. It extends south to north Florida, and is rare west of the Mississippi River, but is found occasionally for ornamentals. Its finest development is in the Southern Appalachian mountains, where trees may exceed 170 feet in height.
Liriodendron tulipifera is generally considered to be a shade-intolerant species that is most commonly associated with the first century of forest succession. In Appalachian forests, it is a dominant species during the 50–150 years of succession, but is absent or rare in stands of trees 500 years or older. On mesic, fertile soils, it often forms pure or nearly pure stands. It can and does persist in older forests when there is sufficient disturbance to generate large enough gaps for regeneration. Individual trees have been known to live for up to around 500 years.
All young tulip trees and most mature specimens are intolerant of prolonged inundation; however, a coastal plain swamp ecotype in the southeastern United States is relatively flood-tolerant. This ecotype is recognized by its blunt-lobed leaves, which may have a red tint. Liriodendron tulipifera produces a large amount of seed, which is dispersed by wind. The seeds typically travel a distance equal to 4-5 times the height of the tree, and remain viable for 4–7 years. The seeds are not one of the most important food sources for wildlife, but they are eaten by a number of birds and mammals.
Vines, especially wild grapevines, are known to be extremely damaging to young trees of this species. Vines are damaging both due to blocking out solar radiation, and increasing weight on limbs which can lead to bending of the trunk and/or breaking of limbs.
Taxonomy and naming
Originally described by Linnaeus, Liriodendron tulipifera is one of two species in the genus Liriodendron in the magnolia family. The name Liriodendron is Greek for "lily tree". It is also called the tuliptree Magnolia, or sometimes, by the lumber industry, as the tulip poplar or yellow poplar. However, it is not closely related to true lilies, tulips or poplars.
The tulip tree has impressed itself upon popular attention in many ways, and consequently has many common names. The tree's traditional name in the Miami-Illinois language is "oonseentia". Native Americans so habitually made their dugout canoes of its trunk that the early settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains called it Canoewood. The color of its wood gives it the name Whitewood. In areas near the Mississippi River it is called a poplar largely because of the fluttering habits of its leaves, in which it resembles trees of that genus. It is sometimes called "fiddle tree," because its peculiar leaves, with their arched bases and in-cut sides, suggest the violin shape. The external resemblance of its flowers to tulips named it the Tulip-tree. In their internal structure, however, they are quite different. Instead of the triple arrangements of stamens and pistil parts, they have indefinite numbers arranged in spirals.
East Central Florida ecotype
Parts of east-central Florida near Orlando have an ecotype with similar-looking leaves to the coastal plain variant of the Carolinas; it flowers much earlier (usually in March, although flowering can begin in late January), with a smaller yellower bloom than other types. This east central Florida ecotype seems to have the best ability to tolerate very wet conditions, where it may grow short pencil-like root structures (pneumatophores) similar to those produced by other swamp trees in warm climates. Superior resistance to drought, pests and wind is also noted. Some individuals retain their leaves all year unless a hard frost strikes. Places where it may be seen include Dr. Howard A. Kelly Park, Lake Eola Park, Spring Hammock Preserve, and the University of Central Florida Arboretum.
Cultivation and use
Liriodendron tulipifera grows readily from seeds, which should be sown in a fine soft mould, and in a cool and shady situation. If sown in autumn they come up the succeeding spring, but if sown in spring they often remain a year in the ground. Loudon says that seeds from the highest branches of old trees are most likely to germinate. It is readily propagated from cuttings and easily transplanted.
Tulip trees make magnificently shaped specimen trees, and are very large, growing to about 35 m in good soil. They grow best in deep well-drained loam which has thick dark topsoil. They show stronger response to fertilizer compounds (those with low salt index are preferred) than most other trees, but soil structure and organic matter content are more important. In the wild it is occasionally seen around serpentine outcrops. The southeastern coastal plain and east central Florida ecotypes occur in wet but not stagnant soils which are high in organic matter. All tulip trees are unreliable in clay flats which are subject to ponding and flooding. Like other members of the Magnolia family, they have fleshy roots that are easily broken if handled roughly. Transplanting should be done in early spring, before leaf-out; this timing is especially important in the more northern areas. Fall planting is often successful in Florida. The east central Florida ecotype may be more easily moved than other strains because its roots grow over nine or ten months every year—several months longer than other ecotypes. Most tulip trees have low tolerance of drought, although Florida natives (especially the east central ecotype) fare better than southeastern coastal plain or northern inland specimens.
It is recommended as a shade tree. The tree's tall and rapid growth is a function of its shade intolerance. Grown in the full sun, the species tends to grow shorter, slower, and rounder, making it adaptable to landscape planting. In forest settings, most investment is made in the trunk (i.e., the branches are weak and easily break off, a sign of axial dominance) and lower branches are lost early as new, higher branches closer to the sun continue the growth spurt upward. A tree just 15 years old may already reach 40 feet in height with no branches within reach of humans standing on the ground.
- 'Ardis' - shorter, with smaller leaves than wild form. Leaves shallow-lobed with waist near top.
- 'Arnold' - narrow, columnar crown; may flower at early age.
- 'Aureomarginatum' - variegated form with pale-edged leaves; sold as 'Flashlight' or 'Majestic Beauty'.
- 'Fastigatum' - similar form to 'Arnold'.
- 'Florida Strain' - blunt-lobed leaves, fast grower, flowers at early age.
- 'Integrifolium' - leaves without lower lobes.
- 'JFS-Oz' - somewhat compact oval form with straight leader, leaves dark and glossy; sold as 'Emerald City.'
- 'Leucanthum' - flowers white or nearly white.
- 'Little Volunteer' - almost as diminutive as 'Ardis.' Leaves more deeply lobed than 'Ardis' with waist in middle.
- 'Mediopictum' - variegated form with yellow spot near center of leaf.
- 'Roothaan' - blunt-lobed leaves.
Liriodendron tulipifera has been introduced to many temperate parts of the world, at least as far north as Sykkylven, Norway.
This tree species is a major honey plant in the eastern United States, yielding a dark reddish, fairly strong honey which gets mixed reviews as a table honey but is favorably regarded by bakers. Nectar is produced in the orange parts of the flowers. Some specimens may be poor nectar producers simply because they have relatively little orange in their flowers. On the other hand, the east central Florida ecotype may secrete copious amounts of nectar (see the images of its flowers below).
The soft, fine-grained wood of tulip trees is known as "poplar" (short for "yellow poplar") in the U.S., but marketed abroad as "American tulipwood" or by other names. It is very widely used where a cheap, easy-to-work and stable wood is needed. The sapwood is usually a creamy off-white color. While the heartwood is usually a pale green, it can take on streaks of red, purple, or even black; depending on the extractives content (i.e. the soil conditions where the tree was grown, etc.). It is clearly the wood of choice for use in organs, due to its ability to take a fine, smooth, precisely cut finish and so to effectively seal against pipes and valves. It is also commonly used for siding clapboards. Its wood may be compared in texture, strength, and softness to white pine.
Used for interior finish of houses, for siding, for panels of carriages, for coffin boxes, pattern timber, and wooden ware. During scarcity of the better qualities of white pine, tulip wood has taken its place to some extent, particularly when very wide boards are required.
It also has a reputation for being resistant to termites, and in the Upland South (and perhaps elsewhere) house and barn sills were often made of tulip poplar beams.
Another form of art that the tulip tree is a major part of is wood carving. The tulip poplar can be very useful and has been one of the favorite types of trees for wood carving by sculptors such as Wilhelm Schimmel and Shields Landon Jones.
- The Queens Giant, a tulip tree that is the oldest living thing in the New York Metropolitan area (350–450 years old, 40 m / 134 feet tall)
- Spathodea campanulata, often known as the African tulip tree, an unrelated plant in a separate family (Bignoniaceae).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Liriodendron tulipifera.|
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- Repopulation of the Tulip Poplar in Central Florida
- Michigan Bee Plants :: Magnoliaceae :: Liriodendron tulipifera
- Archaeanthus: Paleontologists Identify Ancient Ancestor of Tulip Tree by Enrico de Lazaro (Sep 13, 2013)
French Guiana: bois-canot.
Plant introduced from North America to French Guiana.
Liriodendron tulipifera is widely cultivated; a few cultivars have been introduced to horticulture, and the hybrid L. tulipifera × L. chinense is known. Liriodendron tulipifera is reported to have escaped from cultivation in Texas, but I have seen no specimens. The specimens from Barry and Ozark counties, Missouri, may not be indigenous.
Liriodendron tulipifera is the state tree of both Indiana and Tennessee.
Native American tribes used Liriodendron tulipifera for making canoes. Cherokee and Rappahannock tribes used bark of the roots as a bitter tonic and heart stimulant, and it was considered useful in healing fevers, rheumatism, and digestive disorders (D. E. Moerman 1986).
The largest known tree of Liriodendron tulipifera , 44.5 m in height with a trunk diameter of 3.02 m, is recorded from Bedford, Virginia (American Forestry Association 1994).
Names and Taxonomy
tulipifera L. (Magnoliaceae) . Recognized varieties and forms are
as follows :
L. t. var. fastigiatum (L.) Jaeq.
L. t. var. obtusilobum (L.) Michx.
L. t. forma aureomarginatum Schwerin
L. t. forma integrifolium Kirchr.
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