Leaf and flower color variation are widespread in this species, but the variation is continuous and without any discernible taxonomic significance.
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).
Tree 18 - 32 m tall, trunk 0.6 - 1.2 m in diameter Leaves: alternate, bright green above, paler beneath, 8 - 15 cm long and wide, shaped like a cat's face, usually having four large lobes, occasionally with a few smaller lobes near the base, notched at the tip, non-toothed. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Flowers: usually at ends of branches near the top of the tree, greenish yellow with an orange blotch near the center, tulip-shaped, six-petaled, with many stamens and pistils. Fruit: a cone-like aggregate of winged seeds (samaras), 5 - 8 cm long, green changing to light brown, narrow, elongated. The stalk and axis of the fruit persisting after the samaras mature and disperse. Bark: greenish gray and scaly when young, becoming brownish gray and deeply furrowed with interlacing rounded ridges. Twigs: changing from reddish to brown to gray, shiny, smooth, encircled by stipular scars, citrus-scented when crushed. Terminal buds: 1.3 - 2 cm long, short-stalked, flattened, resembling a duck's beak, green to reddish brown, covered with a waxy coating (glaucous), with two scales that do not overlap (valvate).
Similar species: Liriodendron tulipifera is easy to distinguish in the Chicago Region. It has four-lobed leaves with notched tips, flattened terminal buds that resemble duck beaks, stipular scars that encircle the citrus-scented twigs, tulip-shaped flowers, and cone-like clusters of winged fruit.
Flowering: mid May to mid July
Habitat and ecology: Common in the eastern Chicago Region in open areas of woodlands, L. tulipifera is also found on stable dune slopes. Spontaneously occurring plants found in Illinois have probably escaped from cultivation since Michigan and Indiana are at the northwestern edge of the species' native range.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: This species is commonly used in landscaping, especially in large yards and parks. The wood is used in making furniture, veneer, crates, and pulpwood. This is the state tree of Indiana.
Etymology: Liriodendron comes from the Greek words leirion, meaning a lily, and dendron, meaning a tree. Tulipifera means tulip-bearing, referring to the resemblance of the flower to a tulip.
Sturdy tree to 60 m; lvs long-petioled, 8-14 cm long and about as wide, broadly retuse; fls solitary at the ends of the branches; sep pale green; pet 4-5 cm, greenish-yellow, with a large basal orange blotch within; frs narrow and elongate, 3-4 cm; 2n=38. Rich woods; Vt. to s. Mich., s. Ill., and se. Mo., s. to Fla. and La., often cult. May, June.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
This is an infrequent to frequent or common tree throughout the state although it may be absent or very local in a few of the northwestern counties. It grows in almost all kinds of soil but prefers a dry, rather sandy one where it is often a common tree in some of the southern counties. In the hilly counties it is usually found toward the bases of slopes and is almost invariably associated with beech and sugar maple, although there are exceptions where it grows with white oak, black gum, and others.
Indiana Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 4
Wetland Indicator Status: FACU
Deam (1932): By lumbermen this tree is generally known as yellow poplar, or more often shortened to poplar. It is also known as blue, white, and hickory poplar, or as white wood. The tuliptree is the second largest tree in Indiana. In the Ind. Geol. Rept. 6:70. 1875, is the following: "I measured four poplar trees that stood within a few feet of each other; the largest was thirty-eightfeet in circumference three feet from the ground, one hundred and twenty feet high, and about sixty-five feet to the first limb. The others were, respectively eighteen and a half, eighteen and seventeen feet in circumference at three feet above ground." The range of the uses of the wood is not so great as of the oak, but it has many uses. The demand has been so great that practically all of the large trees have been cut. Small trees have so much sap or white wood that they are not sought for lumber, but can be used for pulp and excelsior.
The tuliptree transplants easily, grows rapidly, tall, and with short side branches. Experiments in growing this tree indicate that it is one of the best trees for reinforcing the woodlot. It can be recommended for roadside planting because it grows tall and has a deep root system. Where conditions of life are not too severe it could be used for shade tree planting. In 1923 the Indiana legislature made this tree our state flower.