Tuliptree (Tulipifera)

The Tuliptree (Tulipifera) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Tuliptree (Tulipifera) has green foliage and inconspicuous yellow flowers, with an abuncance of conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Tuliptree (Tulipifera) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Tuliptree (Tulipifera) will reach up to 120 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 50 feet.

The Tuliptree (Tulipifera) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -18°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

The wood of tulip poplar is moderately light, soft, brittle, moderately weak, and is very easily worked. It is used for furniture stock, veneer and pulpwood.

Tulip poplar makes a desirable street, shade, or ornamental tree but the large size it attains makes it unsuited for many sites. Its good points for aesthetic use are: (1) rapid growth (2) pyramidal form (3) resistance to insect and disease damage (4) unusual leaves and attractive flowers, and (5) yellow autumnal color.

This species has some wildlife value. The fruits provide food for squirrels in the late fall and winter months, and the white-tailed deer often browse on the twigs.

Tulip poplar is planted for reforestation purposes because of its rapid growth and the commercial importance of its wood, and is often planted as an ornamental. Tulip poplar and white pine were the largest trees in the eastern forest.

General Characteristics

Tulip poplar actually is not a poplar, but a member of the magnolia family. The leaves are tulip-shaped, alternate, and simple. The leaf is smooth on both surfaces, dark green and lustrous above, pale and often with a slight whitish bloom beneath.

Twigs are moderately stout, olive-brown, to reddish brown, very smooth and usually lustrous; the large terminal bud has two large duck-bill shaped scales.

Tulip poplar produces tulip-shaped, light greenish-yellow flowers from April to June. It is a prolific seed bearer but has a low percent germination. The cone shaped fruit clusters usually persist on branches. There are about 12,000 seeds per pound.

The bark on younger trunks and branches is quite smooth, light ashy-gray with very shallow, longitudinal, whitish furrows. With age the bark becomes very thick, having deep interlacing furrows and rather narrow rounded ridges.

This tree is rapid growing, attaining heights of 80-120 feet and a trunk diameter of 2 to 5 feet. Young trees have a pyramidal form.

Required Growing Conditions

Tulip poplar is exacting in soil and moisture requirements. It does best on moderately moist, deep, well drained, loose textured soils; it rarely grows well in very dry or very wet situations. It will tolerate a pH of 4.5 to 7.5.

Tulip poplar is distributed throughout the east and southeast portions of the United States.

Cultivation and Care

Natural regeneration of tulip poplar is usually by stump sprouts and seed. Regeneration from seed requires a seedbed of mineral soil, adequate soil moisture, sufficient direct sunlight for early growth; seedlings are intolerant of shade.Forest plantings are planted at spacings ranging from 6' x 7' to 10' x 10'. One year old nursery grown seedlings are used.

General Upkeep and Control

The rapid growth of tulip poplar can present a challenge to other tree species in a mixed stand. This should influence the numbers of tulip poplar included in a mixed planting for conservation purposes, and may require thinning to maintain the values provided by other species. Moderate thinnings at 8-10 year intervals are recommended for timber production.

Pests and Potential Problems Tulip poplar is unusually free from insects and disease. The yellow-poplar weevil, nectria canker, and fusarium canker are three of the more important enemies of this species.

This species is prone to wind damage and ice damage in exposed situations.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) There are selections from tree nurseries.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 120
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -18
Soil Depth for Roots 32
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.5–6.5 pH
Precipitation Range 30–30 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–800 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 32
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA