Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

The Tulip Tree or Tulip Poplar (which, as botanical pedants will always point out, is not a poplar) is one of the finest native trees in our area. It grows very fast; it produces wood that is useful not only for furniture but also for musical instruments (dulcimer-makers prize it); it is strong and well-shaped; it can live for centuries; and it produces these attractive tulip-like flowers in the spring. There is almost nothing that can be said against it, except that, if it happens to sprout where it is not wanted, it is perhaps a little too vigorous. This tree was growing in Schenley Park, where it was blooming in late May.

Gray describes the genus and the species, which is the only one native to North America:

LIRIODÉNDRON L. TULIP TREE. Sepals 3, reflexed. Petals 6, in two rows, making a bell-shaped corolla. Anthers linear, opening outward. Pistils flat and scale-form, narrow, imbricating and cohering in an elongated cone, dry, falling away whole, like a samara or key, indehiscent, 1-2-seeded in the small cavity at the base. (Name from lirion, lily or tulip, and dendron, tree.)

L. tulipifera L. — Leaves very smooth, with 2 lateral lobes near the base, and 2 at the apex, which appears as if cut off abruptly by a broad shallow notch; petals 6 cm. long, greenish yellow marked with orange; cone of fruit 7.5 cm. long. — Rich soil, Worcester Co., Mass., to Ont., Wisc., and southw. May, June. — A most beautiful tree, sometimes 40 m. high and 2-3 m. in diameter in the Western and Southern States, the timber commonly called Poplar or White Wood.

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