Tulip Poplar

Liriodendron tulipifera
(Tuliptree, Yellow-poplar, Tulip Magnolia, Whitewood)


Growing widely east of the Mississippi, the tulip poplar was valued by pioneers as an important lumber tree. The long, straight trunk was ideal for their log cabins and could easily be hollowed out to form a lightweight canoe. Many of the floors in our older Lexington houses are made from the poplar. Poplar is good for carving as it does not crack and split like most other woods. Today we enjoy the tree as a large ornamental. Fast-growing and disease free, a young tulip poplar will grow over two feet a year to well over one hundred feet. It has a spreading crown and dark gray, deeply furrowed bark. The fruit and flowers help in recognizing this tree. The large flowers at the end of each twig in early May are tulip-shaped with greenish yellow petals. The fruit are nuts encased in a shreddy, upright cone which stays on tree throughout the winter providing food for squirrels.