Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tulip Poplar

Liriodendron tulipifera, the state tree of Indiana, is often called the tulip poplar.   It's not a poplar at all.  It's related to the magnolia, which isn't surprising because it has beautiful flowers.

photo:  Lindley Ashline, Winged Photography on Flickr.
The squirrels love the flowers and the seeds.  I've seen them perform spectacular aerial feats to get to the flowers at the tops of the branches. 

During the leafy season, it's easy to identify the tree from the leaves.   Wide, symmetrical, two large points above, and one or two smaller points to each side.    
However, this tree has some pretty distinctive trunk and bark patterns that allow you to identify it when the leaves are down, too.
Notice the upside down V markings on the trunk.    Those marks are from branches.   As the tree grows and the lower branches come off, the markings stay.   The markings get darker and larger as you go up the tree to the current branches.  The bigger the branch gets, the bigger the marking gets.

So, next time you're in the woods, you'll be able to recognize one of these, regardless of the time of year.   It might save your life.  

Or not. 


  1. LOL! It really could save one's life!

    My guys probably knew all of that already, but I didn't so thanks for the lesson in IDing them by trunk markings. :) I like these trees except when the petals all rain down and make the sidewalks (on campus) a slippery mess.

  2. Thanks for the identification lesson! What a beautiful tree. We have poplars here that we planted, but I don't think they are tulip poplars. Now I wish they were!


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