Tulip Tree

Illustration of tulip tree leaves, flowers, fruit
Scientific Name
Liriodendron tulipifera
Magnoliaceae (magnolias)

Tulip tree is a large, stately tree with a long, clear trunk and a pyramidal crown.

Leaves are alternate, simple, 4–6 inches long and broad, tip notched or V-shaped at the center, with 2 lobes near the tip and 2 or 4 lobes on the lower sides; margin entire, lobes pointed; leaves turn clear yellow in autumn.

Bark is gray at first, thin, tight, later gray to brown with rounded ridges and long, deep grooves.

Twigs are stout, brittle, greenish- to reddish-brown, sometimes with a whitish coating, aromatic, bitter; pores pale; end bud flattened, resembling a duck’s bill, ½ inch long.

Flowers May–June; large, showy, greenish-yellow, orange-banded at the base, waxy, tulip-shaped, 3–4 inches across, with 6 upright petals; stamens numerous, long.

Fruit matures September–October; brown, woody, conelike, longer than broad, tapering to a point, 2–3 inches long; seeds numerous, winged, light brown, about 1½ inches long.

Common Name Synonyms
Yellow Poplar
Tulip Poplar

Height: to over 100 feet; spread: to 40 feet; trunk diameter: to 6 feet.

Where To Find
image of Tulip Tree Yellow Poplar Tulip Poplar distribution map

Occurs naturally in southeastern Missouri, but widely planted statewide.

At Crowley’s Ridge, occurs in moist woods of ravines, in upland woods, and along streams. Along the Mississippi River in southeastern Missouri, occurs at the base of wooded bluffs. An important ornamental tree for lawns, parks, and cemeteries. One of the most attractive and tallest of eastern hardwoods. Fast-growing. In cove forests in the Appalachians, it can reach 300 years old.

One of our most valuable trees. Tulip tree is in the magnolia family, but early lumbermen called it "poplar" because its wood is lightweight, like that of poplars and birches (which are in different families). In cultivation, this tree grows rapidly in good soil, has excellent form, and is disease resistant. It will not grow in the shade.

An important landscaping tree. The wood is used for veneer, plywood, crates, furniture, cabinets, musical instruments, and more. Native Americans used bark tea as a remedy for numerous ailments. An alkaloid extract from the bark was once used as a heart stimulant.

The seeds are eaten by at least 10 species of birds, as well as by squirrels and other small rodents. The leaves are eaten by deer and rabbits. It is a favorite nesting tree of many birds. A considerable amount of nectar is produced and harvested by bees.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

Tywappity Community Lake is located in Scott County, near the towns of Cape Girardeau, Chaffee, Scott City, Benton, and Oran.
Apple Creek Conservation Area is located in northeast Cape Girardeau County, three miles east of New Wells on Route CC.
Cape Woods Conservation Area is a small bottomland forest tract and an intensely visited urban wild acres site.
About Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines in Missouri
There are no sharp dividing lines between trees, shrubs, and woody vines, or even between woody and nonwoody plants. “Wood” is a type of tissue made of cellulose and lignin that many plants develop as they mature — whether they are “woody” or not. Trees are woody plants over 13 feet tall with a single trunk. Shrubs are less than 13 feet tall, with multiple stems. Vines require support or else sprawl over the ground.