#TeachingTuesday: Tulip Poplar
Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a large, native, deciduous tree. It is also referred to as tulip tree, or yellow poplar. The straight species, meaning the one found in the wild, can grow 60 to 90 feet tall, with a spread of 30 to 50 feet, but there are cultivars that are smaller, and even a fastigiate type, meaning it grows very narrow, like a column. It blooms in late spring or early summer with yellow flowers that have an orange center. The flowers later develop into cones with “helicopter” seeds that drop off and disperse in the wind. In landscaping, tulip trees are usually used as shade trees in large lawn areas due to their size. In the fall, the bright green leaves turn a nice shade of yellow.
Tulip poplars grow best in full sun in moist, well-drained soil. However, they will tolerate part shade, clay soils, wet soils, and growing near black walnut trees. Deer don’t usually bother them, which is good when establishing young trees. Once established, they are very low maintenance, and usually do not require pruning.
- Very distinct leaf shape—no other tree has leaves shaped like it. It looks like a cat’s face, with ears and whiskers.
- The flowers are shaped kind of like a tulip (Liriodendron tulipifera), and have yellow/light green petals with an orange center.
- The flowers form a cone of winged seeds that are carried by the wind, and some children play with them and call them ‘helicopters’.