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Tulip Poplar Tree Facts, Uses, and Planting Tips

Updated on July 10, 2017
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The author has an interest in the outdoors and the benefits of nature in health and as alternatives to modern products.

By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

The tulip poplar is also known as the tulip tree or the yellow poplar. It is a hardwood tree that's native to most of the eastern United States. It is not a poplar tree but is a member of the magnolia tree family.

In some regions of the United States, tulip poplars can reach heights of 160 feet and higher. There have been records of tulip poplar trees reaching heights of up to 190 feet. Yet most of them will, on average, reach heights of 70 to 100 feet. The tulip poplar is also a quick-growing tree. A plus for the tulip poplar is that it tends to live longer than other fast growing trees. It's also a hardwood, which many fast-growing trees are not. The trees also flourish best in low shade/full sun with well-drained soil. Young tulip poplars are vulnerable to damage from vines of wild grapes. This is because they can weigh the tree down. They can also decrease the amount of sunlight that reaches the young tulip poplars.

The flowers of the tulip poplar tree tend to show in the spring in southern regions of the United States. While, in more northern regions, they bloom in June. The trees begin to show their first blooms when the tree is within ten to fifteen years of its age. The colors of the tree's flowers can be a pale green or yellow. The coloring may be dependent on the temperature of the region and many other factors. There have also been occurrences of the flowers on the tulip poplar tree being white in color. This is a rare occurrence though and is not uniform across the tree's blooms. The flowers also have an orange colored segment and they produce a good amount of nectar. An amount of nectar which can be around a tablespoon per flower. Which is why the tree is popular amongst beekeepers. It is useful in the production of rich and strong-flavored Poplar Honey. The appearance of the flowers is where the tree gets its name since their petals resemble tulips.

Use as a Raw Material

As said above, the tulip poplar is excellent for aiding bees in honey production. Yet it is also popular as a lower-cost strong wood for furniture, flooring, and many other uses. Another popular use is as siding. In the past, it was also used as an alternative to siding made from white pine wood. It is a low-cost alternative in many respects for consumer use and applications. The tulip poplar was also used in the building of houses, cabins, and barns, as beams. This was due to its strength and resistance to termites.

By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Medicinal and Dietary Uses

The tulip poplar's bark, when boiled in water, made a tea that aided in treating typhoid and malaria. It had usage as an alternative to quinine. The inner bark was a treatment rheumatism and arthritis. This is also a common use of the bark of many trees in the magnolia family. The tea made from the bark is also said to aid in digestion. It also increases an individual's appetite when they're feeling ill. The tea from the bark, when boiled down more, is also useful as a cough syrup. The flowers of the tulip poplar are useful, when prepared, as an ointment for soothing skin. The ointment can also aid in the healing of burns.

The oldest living tulip poplar tree, at present, is the Queens Giant in New York City. It is believed to be between 350 and 400 years old. Its age may be up to 450 years old. It is also 133.8 feet in height when it was last measured in 2005.


Tulip Poplar from the University of Kentucky Department of Horticulture

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) from the University of Minnesota

Liriodendron tulipifera from the Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

© 2017 Ron Noble


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