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Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Also known as tulip tree, American tulip tree, tulipwood, tuliptree, tulip poplar, whitewood, fiddletree, yellow poplar, yellow-poplar.

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Tuliptree

Summary

A large deciduous tree native to eastern North America, with distinctive four-lobed leaves and tulip-like blossoms.

Range - Expand

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Native

This tentative map is based on the FHWA's ERA. This data lacks information on Canada, but also overestimates native ranges, especially around the edges, as this post explains. We have not yet reviewed or fixed this map.

USDA Plants Profile for Liriodendron tulipifera

Illinois Wildflowers Page for Liriodendron tulipifera

Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) Article for Liriodendron tulipifera

Similar Plants

Habitat

Found in hardwood and mixed forests, and early-successional stages of recently cleared forests or abandoned fields. Grows best on cooler north- and east-facing slopes, sheltered coves, lower slopes and concave slopes, but can be found on a wide range of sites. Best growth is on deep, moist, well-drained, loose-textured soils rich in organic matter, but also grows in silty soils and can tolerate clay soil if well-drained. Can tolerate pH down to 4.5. Found in a wide range of climactic conditions. In most of its range, intolerant of flooding, but some trees in the southeast of this species range are able to tolerate flooding and consistently wet conditions.

Establishes primarily as a pioneer species, but persists in mid-successional stages due to its large maximum height, which enables it to keep reaching the high-light conditions it needs, even when shade-tolerant species establish underneath it.

Found from sea level to 4,500 ft (1,364 m). Found in areas that experience no fire, or infrequent fire of light to moderate severity, but absent from ones that burn regularly, as regular fire prevents trees from reaching maturity. Often establishes on sites that have burned recently.

Life Cycle

Seeds germinate on the surface of the soil, primarily on exposed mineral soil or decomposed humus. Seedlings have high light requirements and survival is poor in shade, although seedlings can sometimes establish in gaps under a thin forest canopy.

Growth is rapid in good conditions; trees may flower and produce seed as early as 10 years, but most commonly begin producing seed at 15-20 years of age. Seed production continues for 200 years or more. Seed production is large, but seeds have a low (5-20%) proportion of viability. Seeds remain viable in the seed bank for up to 8 years. Germination is in response to sun and heat, but is enhanced by repeated periods of cold dormancy.

Mature trees are highly resistant to low-to-moderate intensity fires, often more resistant than oaks. Trees are unlikely to be wounded by such fires. The absence of low branches also prevents ground fires from reaching the canopy. However, saplings are vulnerable to fire and are often killed by fires. As such, tuliptree benefits from fire regimes where low-to-moderate intensity fires happen at intervals long enough to allow its establishment.

Uses

The wood of this species is valuable, in large part because of its large size and the straight, single-trunk growth habit.

Tuliptree is often used as a landscaping plant, as a large shade tree, where it is valued for its rapid growth and ease of transplanting.

The nectar of its flowers can be used for making honey; the honey produced is a dark color. (source) It is commercially important as a honey plant in the southeastern U.S.

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