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An individual instance of Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree)
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Tulip poplar actually is not a poplar, but a member of the magnolia family.  It is the state tree of Tennessee. 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.


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.

Adaptation and Distribution

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


Natural regeneration of tulip poplar is usually by stump sprouts and seed. 

Specimen History

This is the oldest tree on campus.  It is present in a campus photograph taken in 1911. 


Burks, D.C. (2014). An mtsu sampler of native Tennessee trees. Retrieved from

USDA NRCS (2002).  Tulip poplar plant fact sheet. Retrieved from


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This particular organism is believed to have managed means of establishment.

This organismal entity has the scope: multicellular organism.


Liriodendron tulipifera


sec. Tennessee Flora 2014

common name: tuliptree
family: Magnoliaceae
Identified 2016-03-13 by Patrick Phoebus


Old Main Circle, Rutherford County, Tennessee, US
Click on these geocoordinates to load a map showing the location: 35.8442°, -86.3707°
Coordinate uncertainty about: 10 m.
Altitude: 180 m.

Location calculated as average of its images' coordinates.

Occurrences were recorded for this particular organism on the following dates:

The following images document this particular organism.
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Image View
whole tree (or vine) - general
whole tree (or vine) - winter
whole tree (or vine) - winter
bark - unspecified
bark - of a large tree
leaf - showing orientation on twig
leaf - showing orientation on twig
inflorescence - lateral view of flower
inflorescence - frontal view of flower

Tennessee Flora 2014 =

Tennessee Flora Committee, 2014. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee (editors: E. W. Chester, B. E. Wofford, J. Shaw, D. Estes, and D. H. Webb). The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN, US.

Metadata last modified: 2019-10-16T22:24:42.018-05:00
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