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 Liriodendron subsp. var.  
Liriodendron tulipifera
Habit: tree
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Magnoliaceae > Liriodendron var. ,

"Tuliptree" redirects here. For the African tuliptree, see Spathodea campanulata.
Tulip tree flower

Liriodendron (pronounced /ˌlɪriɵˈdɛndən/)[1] is a genus of two species of tree in the Magnoliaceae family, known under the common name tulip tree (although it is unrelated to the tulip). Liriodendron tulipifera is native to eastern North America, while Liriodendron chinense is native to China and Vietnam. Both species are large deciduous trees. Various extinct species have been described from the fossil record.

The tulip tree is sometimes called "tulip poplar" or "yellow poplar" although unrelated to the genus Populus. The tree is also called canoewood, saddle leaf tree and white wood. The Onondaga tribe calls it Ko-yen-ta-ka-ah-tas (the white tree).

Liriodendron are easily recognized by their leaves, which are distinct, having four lobes in most cases and a cross-cut notched or straight apex. Leaf size varies from 8-22 cm long and 6-25 cm wide.

The Tulip Tree is a large tree, 18-32 m high and 60-120 cm in diameter. It is trunk columnar, with a long, branch-free bole forming a compact, rather than open, conical crown of slender branches. It has deep roots that are wide spread. [2]

Leaves are slightly larger in L. chinense but with considerable overlap between the species; the petiole is 4-18 cm long. Leaves on young trees tend to be more deeply lobed and larger size than those on mature trees. In autumn, the leaves turn yellow or brown and yellow. Both species grow rapidly in rich, moist soils of temperate climates. They hybridize easily, and the progeny often grow faster than either parent.

Flowers are 3-10 cm in diameter and have nine tepals — three green outer sepals and six inner petals which are yellow-green with an orange flare at the base. They start forming after around 15 years and are superficially similar to a tulip in shape, hence the tree's name. Flowers of L. tulipifera have a faint cucumber odor. The stamens and pistils are arranged spirally around a central spike or gynaecium; the stamens fall off, and the pistils become the samaras. The fruit is a cone-like aggregate of samaras 4-9 cm long, each of which has a roughly tetrahedral seed with one edge attached to the central conical spike and the other edge attached to the wing.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Liriodendron (lirion, lily, and dendron, tree; referring to the shape of the flowers). Magnoliaceae. Tulip Tree. Whitewood. Yellow Poplar. Ornamental trees grown for their handsome foliage and large tulip-like flowers.

Deciduous: lvs. alternate, long-petioled, 2-6-lobed, with conspicuous deciduous stipules cohering when young and inclosing the next lf.: fls. terminal, solitary, with 3 spreading sepals and 6 erect, broadly ovate petals; stamens numerous, with long and linear anthers; pistils numerous, forming a narrow column, developing into a light brown cone; at maturity the carpels, each consisting of a long, narrow wing with a 1-2- seeded nutlet at the base, separate from the slender spindle.—Two species in N. Amer. and China.

Only the native species, one of the noblest trees of the American forest, is well known in cultivation. It is a hardy beautiful tree of pyramidal habit, well adapted for park-planting and for avenues, with handsome, clean foliage of unusual shape and of rather light bluish green color, rarely attacked by insects or fungi, assuming in fall a brilliant yellow color; the tulip-like flowers, though of not very showy color are conspicuous by their size and shape. The tulip tree is also an important forest tree, and the soft, fine-grained, light yellow wood is much used in carpentry for furniture, boat-building and the manufacture of small articles; it does not split easily but is readily worked and bent to any required shape. The inner bark is said to have medical properties. The tulip tree grows best in deep, rich and somewhat moist soil. Transplanting is not easy; it is best done in spring, just before the tree starts into new growth. Propagate by seeds sown in fall or stratified and sown in spring; varieties are usually grafted or budded on seedling stock, rarely propagated by layers. The seeds are sometimes hollow, especially those grown along the eastern limit of the species.

L. chinense, Sarg. (L. Tulipifera var. chinense, Hemsl.). Tree, to 50 ft.: lvs. with 4 acute or acuminate lobes, rounded or slightly cordate at the base, 5-6 in. long: fls. 1-1 ½ in. long: cone slenderer, the fertile carpels obtuse or obtusish at the apcx. Cent. China.— Seems somewhat tenderer than the native species.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Liriodendron sp. prefer a temperate climate, sun or part shade and deep, fertile, well drained and slightly acidic soil. Propagation is via seed or grafting. Plants grown from seed may take more than eight years to flower. Grafted plants will flower earlier depending on the age of the scion plant.


Pests and diseases


Lioriodendron Tree at Hingham Center Cemetery, Hingham, Massachusetts

Species and cultivars:
Liriodendron tulipifera
Liriodendron chinense
Liriodendron 'Chapel Hill' and 'Doc Deforce's Delight' are hybrids of the above two species
L. tulipifera 'Ardis' is a small-leaf, compact cultivar that is rarely seen
L. tulipifera 'Aureomarginatum' is variegated with yellow-margined leaves
L. tulipifera 'Fastigiatum' grows with an erect or columnar habit (fastigiate)
L. tulipifera 'Glen Gold' bears yellow-gold colored leaves
L. tulipifera 'Mediopictum' is a variegated cultivar with gold-centered leaves


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