Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tulip Tree (and a sign of spring)

Today I stopped to take a look at what was left of the tulip tree fruit.

The fruit, green in the summer and brown in the fall, is a cone-like aggregate of winged seeds (samaras). The samaras fall off (from top to bottom) throughout the winter.

I noticed the buds and was looking at their curious duck-bill shape when I saw that one had popped open on the side.

I helped it along and inside I saw a perfectly shaped miniature leaf folded in half neatly along the midrib. Other buds had started to open as well.

Here's a photo of a mature leaf from last summer (this leaf is two-lobed but leaves can also have four lobes),

and a tulip tree leafed out.

The bark is deeply furrowed on mature trees.

The tulip tree is one of the tallest species in the cemetery, known to reach a height of 190 feet.

Liriodendron tulipifera is sometimes called yellow poplar although it's not related to poplars. It's actually in the Magnolia family.


  1. This big tree is amazing. I planted a little container grown tuliptree on a hillside behind our house (not in the yard, they aren't yard trees), and it is growing like gangbusters. Love the funny leaf shape. A volunteer popped up in my garden, so I'll put that out on the back hill too. I like your blog, your pictures of venerable old trees, both close up and in profile, are lovely.

  2. Hi Katie. Thank you for the amazing photo of the tiny leaf--such an incredible sign of spring! I also talk about Green-Wood's gorgeous tulip trees in my new book about the cemetery. Walt Whitman called tulip trees "the Apollo of the woods, tall and graceful . . . "

  3. an amazing sign of spring and of life.

  4. I love Green-Wood and visit it often, but I've never managed to find a tulip tree there. Where is this one? I want to check it out this weekend to see if it's flowering, since the magnolias were nearly at peak last Sunday. Thank you!

  5. Sorry, I only just got your message.This one is near Circlet Path (53 on the Green-Wood map). It's right around dead center of the cemetery. I am giving a spring tree tour next Sunday, May 3. You are welcome to join and I can show you exactly where it is (and point out many other tulip trees). Please email me for details (you can click on my profile and find my email address there.)