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Liriodendron tulipifera

Common Name(s):
Tulip poplar, Tulip tree, Yellow poplar
Native Plants, Trees

Liriodendron tulipifera, commonly called tulip tree or yellow poplar, is a large, stately, deciduous tree of eastern North America that typically grows 60-90' (less frequently to 150’) tall with a pyramidal to broad conical habit.  The trunks of mature trees may reach 4-6’ in diameter, usually rising column-like with an absence of lower branches. The bark is smooth and dark green on young trees. As the tree ages, wide, white furrows that separate flat ridges develop.  Wood from the Yellow Poplar is used for furniture, plywood, boatbuilding, paper pulp and general lumber.  

The flowers of the Yellow poplar are followed by dry, scaly, oblong, cone-shaped brown fruits, each bearing numerous winged seeds.

Regions:  Mountain, Peidmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

     Leaves:  Fall     Bloom:  Spring     Fruit/Seed/Nut: Fall

Wildlife Value:  The Yellow poplar is a larval host plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and birds like cedar waxwings feed on the nectar from flowers. White-tailed deer, gray squirrels, and some songbirds eat the flowers in the spring. White-tailed deer browse the foliage and twigs, but this tree is considered to be moderately deer resistant. Rabbits eat the buds and inner bark of young trees.

Play Value: Wildlife Enhancement 

Seed: Samara 

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Diseases that may potentially effect the Yellow poplar include verticillium wilt, mold, mildew and canker.  Large aphid infestations result in honeydew secretions on the leaves that provide the growing medium for sooty mold. Trees are fast-growing and somewhat weak wooded, making them susceptible to limb breakage in high winds or from ice/snow. Its shallow root system limits the types of plants that may be grown within the drip line.  Aphids and scale also effect this tree. 

40-150 ft.
The Yellow Poplar has cup shaped, upright, fragrant yellow flowers with an orange band at the base of each petal. Although the flowers are 2” in length, they can go unnoticed on large trees because the flowers appear after the leaves are fully developed. Sometimes the flowers are first noticed when the attractive petals begin to fall below the tree. The tree produces and aggregate of overlapping samaras which separate at maturity in the late fall.
The Yellow Poplar is best grown in moist, organically rich, well-drained loams in full sun. it will tolerate part shade.
Tall, straight trunk; upper branches create a rounded crown; in an open landscape has more upright, oval shape
Sun to partial shade; moist, well drained soil
Brown fruit
20-40 ft.
Growth Rate:
Moderate to rapid
The Yellow poplar has alternate, simple, palmately veined, 4-lobed leaves with a smooth margin. Some leaves will turn yellow and drop during drought. The bright green leaves (to 8” across) turn golden yellow in fall.
play, cpp, yellow flowers, playground, nectar, attracts wildlife, deciduous, filtered shade, bees, fall color, birds, native tree, pollinator, hummingbirds, fragrant flowers, shade tree, host, wildlifechildren’s garden, larval, butterflies

NCCES plant id: 504

Liriodendron tulipifera Liriodendron tulipifera
Wendy Cutler, CC BY - 2.0
Liriodendron tulipifera Fall color
Lotus Johnson, CC BY-NC-2.0
Liriodendron tulipifera Leaves
Bri Weldon, CC BY - 2.0
Liriodendron tulipifera Bark
Enviro Runner, CC BY - 2.0
Liriodendron tulipifera Flower
Stanze, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Liriodendron tulipifera Leaf blotch mines
Katja Schultz, CC BY - 2.0