Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

NE corner of Carver Gym Map

This tree (NOT the one shown) was planted in 2007 and is mostly obscured by other trees. It has large heart-shaped four lobed leaves. It was planted when repair of a sewer line resulted in the clearing of a few tens of square meters at the NE corner of Carver Gym. In addition to this tree, several specimens of paper-bark maple and Eastern redbud were installed, as well as an assortment of shrubs. In a few years this may be one of the most attractive corners of campus. (The photographs accompanying this essay are of a champion tree - not on campus - that is many decades old. In 2007, ours was too pitifully small to display. Wait awhile.)

Our tree is not the original but rather a cultivar, "Aureomarginata", which is perhaps as well - the mother species has the potential to grow to a height of 150 ft. or more (the record is 200 ft.), whereas ours will top out at about 80 ft. Besides stature, the main difference lies in leaf coloration: the species has a pea-green leaf (see lower photo), whereas - as its name implies - Aureomarginata leaves are golden on the outside, fading to green at the center.

Tree authorities wax ecstatic over the tulip tree. For instance, More and White call it a "stately tree" and praise its bark and autumn color display. Grant and Grant describe it using adjectives such as "superior," "dazzling," and "magnificent." Curiously, the tulip-like flowers which give the tree its name come in for scant praise. Partly this may be due to the fact that the flowers are carried high on the tree where they are difficult to observe. Ours will not begin to bloom for many years.

The tulip tree (also called the yellow poplar, tulip poplar and whitewood) is a native of eastern North America, from Nova Scotia to Florida, extending as far west as Michigan. It was introduced to England as early as the mid-17th century. Tulip trees furnish wood for furniture and cabinetry, and food for a variety of birds and small mammals. According to one source, L. tulipifera is our tallest native hardwood.