and Deciduous Forest Trees
of Southern Ontario

Tulip Tree
Liriodendron tulipifera 

Location in Ontario: Tulip Tree is a Carolinian Tree found in small pockets throughout the Carolinian Zone of the Deciduous Forest Region.

A row of Tulip Trees, Rondeau Provincial Park

Genus Liriodendron:
This genus consists of only two species. They are sometimes called tulip or yellow poplar, although they are not related to true poplars. Trees are large, often growing over 50 m in height. Leaves are distinctive; alternate and simple with lobes. Trees are monoecious with perfect flowers. Flowers are large, with 3 green outer speals and six inner yellow-green petals. Pistils become samaras in a cone-like aggregate. In Ontario, only Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree) can be found.

Tulip trees grow in rich soils along creeks and rivers and in swampy areas.

Landscape Use:
This very large tree makes an outstanding lawn specimen, with its unusual leaves, beautiful flowers, winter bracts, and unusual seed cones.

TREE FACT: Tulip trees  have amazing long, straight trunks, with no branches for the bottom two-thirds of the tree, making it difficult to view the beautiful flowers at the top!

Leaves: The leaves have 4 to 6 lobes with smooth edges, in the outline of an open tulip.

FALL COLOUR WATCH: The leaves of the Tulip Tree turn yellow or tan in the fall.

Size: Tulip Trees can reach 35 metres in height and live to 150 years of age or more.

TREE FACT: Tulip Tree is the largest hardwood tree in Southern Ontario.

Bark: The bark is brownish and deeply grooved.

Flowers: Monoecious with perfect flowers. The flowers are light yellow to yellowish-green with orange markings, and tulip-shaped. Flowers appear after the leaves around the middle of June. The orange markings attract bees and hummingbirds who pollinate the tree.

Tulip Tree flower

Fruit: Many samaras (a single seed surrounded by papery tissue) are contained in a group (aggregate). It spreads open and seeds are dispersed in October or later. The bracts (a special type of leaf) surrounding the seed aggregate often stay on the tree over the winter. Seed crops are produced yearly after 15 to 20 years of growth.

Left: Winter bracts, Right: Seed pod and bracts

Bracts on trees

Wood: The wood is light and soft.
Specific gravity: 0.42
Janka Hardness: 540 lb
Wood Comparison Chart
The wood is used for wood trim, furniture and musical instruments. It is often sold as "Yellow Poplar", but is not related to poplar trees. Native people hollowed out Tulip Tree trunks to make dugout canoes.

Fall colours

Old growth Tulip Tree, Backus Woods,
Norfolk County