Common name: Tulip tree
Scientific name: Liriodendron tulipifera
Introduction: The Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a large deciduous tree that is native to North America.
Leaves: Tulip Trees have uniquely shaped leaves which, despite their unusual appearance, are quite attractive. Leaves compose of four lobes and are green and glossy; however, they almost look as if their top section (of the upper lobes) has been cut off. In the autumn, you will find that the leaves turn beautiful and distinct shades of yellow and red.
Buds: In winter, buds are a reddish–brown and are typically scaled.
Bark: Tulip trees have a relatively grey and corky bark. As they mature, this bark then begins to form attractive patterns.
[The bark of a Tulip Tree]
Form: Tulip trees can grow to be quite large and pyramidal in shape. They tend to have long, straight trunks and a narrowly formed crown.
Flowers and Fruit: Tulip-shaped, the flowers of a Tulip tree are typically formed in early to mid-summer only on trees that have matured to at least ten years of age. They tend to vary in colour from green to a yellowy–orange. These flowers are then closely followed by standing clusters of single-winged seeds that have a cone-like appearance. These seeds then get spread by wind dispersion and are pollinated by a range of beetles and insects such as bees and some butterfly species.
[Flower of a Tulip Tree]
Tulip Trees are known for having a fast and vigorous growth rate with a long-lived life span.
Many animals use parts of the Tulip tree as a food source. Rabbits, Hares and in their native country of North America, White-tailed Deer, tend to graze on their seedlings. Grey squirrels, mice and rabbits also use seeds as one of their food sources too. Similarly, many insects feed on the nectar of the Tulip tree flowers in the summer.
Properties of Tulip Tree Wood and its Uses
Tulip Tree wood is soft, light and easy to work, which is why is it is often used to make crates, boxes and plywood. The wood itself is typically greenish–yellow in appearance, and due to the size of most Tulip trees, you tend to get a lot of timber out of each one.
Styling of Tulip Trees/Where to Find Them
Tulip trees are a popular choice of ornamental tree and are commonly found in parks and gardens. The species is also tolerant to pollution, which also makes it an ideal choice for an urban setting (if space allows!).
Associated Pests and Diseases
Generally, you will find that Tulip Trees are relatively disease and pest free; however, they can occasionally be susceptible to the Poplar Leaf-Rolling Weevil (Byctiscus populi). While it isn’t necessarily dangerous, the Weevil can ruin the appearance of their unique leaves.
The Tulip tree is the official Kentucky State Tree in North America, and you can find at least one Tulip tree in all their 120 counties. Tulip Tree wood was also once used by Native Americans to make canoes.
Pruning and Pruning Qualities: Due to prolific growth, Tulip trees require regular pruning to maintain their attractive appearance. This typically will involve pruning out any damaged, dead or diseased branches which may cause danger to yourself/the public if they were to break off (Tulip tree branches can be quite brittle). Additionally, it is often advised that you carry out thorough pruning (mainly thinning) every couple of years to keep the tree under control. Another pruning technique which is very common for Tulip trees is Crown Thinning if the crown of the tree becomes too heavy.
For general maintenance, it is advised that you prune a tulip tree in April – this covers any damage that may have been obtained over the winter. Crown thinning/more intensive pruning should be carried out during the summer. Like most trees, and dead or diseased branches should be removed as and when spotted.
You should always consider consulting your local tree surgeon if you have any questions surrounding what your tree may need and if you think any work may be required. They will be more than happy to help and will be able to conduct your tree work safely and efficiently. To find your local tree, please click here.
Growth Rate after Pruning: After crown thinning, trees continue to develop better as the branches have more freedom to grow as they are no longer restricted by deadwood.
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