The tulip tree, or liriodendron tulipifera, is a beautiful local hardwood, and one of the largest hardwoods in the eastern US, growing to over 100 feet tall. It typically grows very straight and tall, making it a valuable timber tree.This tree can be easily identified by the unique shape of its leaves, which you can see below. The tulip-shaped flowers occur in the spring and are often hard to see because the trees rarely have low-hanging limbs.
The tulip poplar has had many important uses to humans over the years. As a child at camp, we made rope from the inner bark, and learned that this was an important source of cordage for the Native Americans. Like so many plants, we have lost many of the uses over time, but Native Americans also used the tulip poplar medicinally. The inner bark is a stimulant, and teas were used to treat indigestion, fevers, coughs and worms among other uses.
The seed is an important food source for many animals including northern bobwhites, purple finches, rabbits, squirrels, and mice, while ruby throated hummingbirds drink the nectar from the flowers, and they also provide habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker, though this is not its primary habitat.
We are lucky to have the wood from such a great tree in our house. There are beautiful patterns in the wood that we used for both the ceiling and the wall paneling.
The tulip-tree, high up,
Opened, in airs of June, her multitude
Of golden chalices to humming birds
And silken-winged insects of the sky.
Bryant—The Fountain. St. 3.