Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Tulip Tree

Walking Lila the other day I spotted a few petals lying on the sidewalk. They looked like tulip petals… I looked all around but couldn’t see a single tulip. Not surprising since its June right? But I did spot this…
And so I looked a little more. But I still didn’t understand what I was looking for until I saw this…
Ah, the leaves! And that is when I realized the blooms were coming from that huge tree above me! A picture of the tree...
I eventually found an intact bloom which I brought home and enjoyed for a few days. Then the husband got involved and we looked it up in a couple of his books. Random House, Trees of North America (and Europe) published in 1978.
And The National Wildlife Federation, Field Guide to Trees of North America, 2008.
Interesting that they are such different listings. The older book was showing the tree and flower as we saw it. From the book: Liriodendron, The tulip tree is sometimes called "tulip poplar" or "yellow poplar", and the wood simply "poplar", although unrelated to the genus Populus. The tree is also called canoewood, saddle leaf tree and white wood.

And as you might imagine looking at the flower it is in the Magnolia family. Personally I am still awe struck by those green, orange and yellow striped petals.

The fine folks at Sunset Mag also recently blogged about the Tulip tree:


  1. AnonymousJune 17, 2010

    Wow, I have only seen the foliage for this tree, never the flower...which is gorgeous! Excellent find. Matti

  2. What a great flowering tree! I've never seen anything like it. What a treasure the blooms are!

  3. They are wonderful trees!
    We had a HUGE tulip poplar in our last backyard and it shaded most of our 75-foot wide rear lot and the back of the house in summer. Cedar waxwings would migrate through and feed on the nectar in the flowers this time of year.
    Apparently the wood of liriodendron tulipifera was used (at least in the past) as a secondary wood in casegoods, like for drawer sides and backs.
    I miss that tree a lot.

  4. If it wasn't such a nice tree, this would have near-weed status here. They come up all over the place and are one of our best natives. In the fall the foliage turns the color of butter and in the winter the trunks look like the bleached bones of some large extinct creature.

  5. Yes, great find-I'm not sure I've ever seen a tulip tree in Portland-I'll have to keep to an eye out now.

  6. Thank you for saving me the trouble of writing a tulip tree post (not that I would have got around to it anyway, the way I'm going these days!). I just noticed those blossoms on a street near me yesterday, after never having done so before. We have some GIANT ones and I always assumed they were sycamores or something else. Thanks for the info, I'm going to remember this one now!

  7. That's a pretty awesome bloom!! Looks like it's not very common over here on the west coast.

  8. We find these petals around our yard.

  9. faroutflora, isn't it cool! Like a tie-died magnolia flower!

    Laura, I am curious if the neighbors would agree. It drops it's debris in a pretty big circle.

    MulchMaid, what a great memory! Isn't it interesting how much trees figure into our lives? I had a HUGE fir tree about 7 feet from my bedroom wall in my house in Spokane. I could hear it creaking at night when the wind blew, which probably should have terrified me but I found it oddly comforting.

    Les, thank you for the seasonal report! I am definitely going to make t a point to walk by this tree to see the seasonal shifts.

    Portland Garden Geek, this one is on 37th by Fernhill park.

    Karen, anytime!

    MT Julie, I was surprised to see that (not common on the west coast), makes me appreciate it all the more!

    Darla, so one of your neighbors has the tree?

    Nicole, it really is.

  10. I'm growing a very young one here in reno N.V. hope it will eventually reward me with some of those beautiful flowers. Actually I have 3 babies but kinda hesitant about keeping all 3 they seem to get very large, well i'll wish myself good luck and maybe someday i can post a pic. Margie.


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