The tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is not a poplar at all, as the name implies. This tall, attractive tree belongs to the Magnoliaceae, or magnolia, family, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Native to North America, the tulip poplar is desirable for its tulip-shaped, yellow flowers, distinctive leaves and fast growth, but it does have some disadvantages.
The sheer size of this tree makes it a poor choice for most home gardens. The tulip poplar is fast growing and can reach heights of over 150 feet tall, according to the University of Connecticut. This greatly limits the tree to those areas where it can stretch upwards and outwards.
Tulip poplar trees have brittle, weak wood. For this reason, the tree is very prone to ice or wind damage. This makes them a safety hazard during such storms, or when weakened by diseases or insect pests. In addition, the sheer amount of litter these trees produce in the form of dropped twigs, leaves and branches is both bothersome and can be a liability. In fact, the city of Huntsville has forbidden the use of this tree as a street tree for that very reason, according to the University of Alabama.
Intolerant of Drought
Liriodendron tulipifera enjoys cool, moist soils and cannot tolerate hot, dry climates, according to the University of Connecticut. In fact, such conditions will cause the leaves of this deciduous tree to turn yellow and fall prematurely from the tree as early as July or August.
Susceptible to Insects and Fungal Diseases
These trees are susceptible to aphids and tulip tree scale. They also frequently develop leaf spot and sooty mold, which are both fungal diseases associated with the cool, moist conditions that favor these trees.