Tulip-tree, tuliptree magnolia, tulip poplar, yellow poplar
Scientific name: Liriodendron tulipifera
Liriodendron tulipifera is native to only eastern North America, from Canada to Central Florida. This species typically grows naturally in rich, loamy soils and along rivers. Its closest relative is found in China. Paleobotanists, scientists who study fossils, have found extinct Liriodendron species in Europe and well outside its range in Asia and North America. There appears to have been a continuous distribution of Liriodendron circling the northern hemisphere in prehistoric times. (Wikipedia, 2006; WPS, 2006)
Tulip poplar is easily identified by its broad, lyre-shaped leaf and large tulip-like flower (See photos). Each flower has nine yellow to green tepals with a bold orange band. Numerous stamens and carpels, the male and female reproductive organs, are arranged spirally on a central cone. Mature flower buds are a favorite food of squirrels. Flowers also produce copious nectar and are valued economically as source of a honey (Wikipedia, 2006). Fruits mature into a cone-like aggregate of samaras (See photo). These seeds are food for squirrels, rabbits, mice, beaver, and many birds (Moran, 2006; WPS, 2006).
There is a long history of tulip poplar folk remedies. It is believed that Native Americans used poplar as a tincture for inflammation and infection. In the 1800s early Americans reported uses of treating worms, jaundice, fever, bruises, and swelling. Western medicine has since found no use for this species. (Lloyd & Lloyd, 1887)
|Flowers are 3-10 cm in diameter and have
nine tepals, three short outer sepals, and six inner petals, yellow-green with an orange flare at
the base. They are superficially similar to a tulip in shape, hence the
tree's name. Flowers of L.
tulipifera have a faint
cucumber odor. The stamens and pistils are
arranged spirally around a central spike or gynaecium; the stamens fall
off, and the pistils become the samaras. The fruit
is a cone-like aggregate of samaras 4-9 cm long, each of which has a
roughly tetrahedral seed with one edge attached to the central conical
spike and the other edge attached to the wing.
Tulip poplar grow rapidly, and virgin trees can reach 70 m high (200 ft). The oldest living individual is 350-400 years old and located in New York City (Kilgannon, 2004). For this reason, it is highly valued for its timber. When early settlers arrived in America they called the tree “canoe wood” because the Indians made their canoes from it (Lloyd & Lloyd, 1887).
Today, this species is cultivated
in many other temperate parts of the world for wood production (Hunt,
1998). The soft, fine-grained wood of L. tulipifera is misleadingly
known as "poplar" (short for "yellow poplar") in the U.S., but marketed
abroad as "American tulipwood" or by other names. Beware, this is not
the tulip-wood used in cabinetry and woodwork (thats actually a
brazilian hardwood). Here is perfect example of why scientific names
are vital in a global ecomony.