The Society of Municipal Arborists gave a nod to Liriodendron tulipifera, commonly known as tuliptree or tulip poplar. It was chosen as the group’s 2018 Urban Tree of the Year for its grand and stately stature, as well as the delightful yellow flowers that grace the tree in spring.

This hardwood grows from 70 up to 90 feet high and 35-50 feet wide in the landscape, although they have been known to grow up to 150 feet high in a forest setting. It’s one of the largest native trees in North America. This fast grower has an upright oval to pyramidal form.

It grows best in full to partial sun, and is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9.

Urban planting sites include parks, wide medians, and city parkways. In the landscape, which will require plenty of room, use as a shade tree, specimen or street tree.

The tuliptree grows best in acidic, moist, well-drained soil. It tolerates alkaline soils, but it does not grow well in places where it would be exposed to salt spray.

LEFT: Try Liriodendron tulipifera in parks, wide medians and along city parkways. It’s a large and fast-growing tree. In the landscape it needs plenty of space away from structures and power lines. RIGHT: The industry has introduced more compact cultivars of the tuliptree, including Emerald City from J. Frank Schmidt.
TOP LEFT by Jean-Pol Grandmont; top right J Frank Schmidt 
L. tulipifera

provides a total package — large (up to 8 inches across) bright green leaves, cup-shaped yellow flowers with an orange band at the base of each petal, and deeply furrowed bark once it matures. Fall foliage color is a vibrant yellow.

Tuliptree provides food and shelter for insect pollinators (it’s the host plant for the Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly), birds — including hummingbirds — and small mammals.

SMA isn’t the only one taking notice. Tuliptree is the state tree of Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee.

There is a caution when it comes to the species: it is susceptible to ice damage.

Sources: Morton Arboretum, Arbor Day Foundation, SMA


Cultivars


Emerald City L. tulipifera 'JFS-Oz'
The slightly compact cultivar has an upright oval shape. Foliage is deep green and glossy. It grows to 55 feet high and 25 feet wide. It’s hardy to Zone 4b.



Little Volunteer
 L. tulipifera ‘Little Volunteer’
A dwarf cultivar, growing 30 to 35 feet high and 18 to 20 feet wide. The leaves are also smaller than those of the species.


Upright Tuliptree
 L. tulipifera ‘Arnold’ or ‘Fastigiatum’ 
These two cultivars are the same tree. A narrow form with upright branching; grows 60 feet high and 20 feet wide.



Sources for cultivar information: J Frank Schmidt, North Carolina State University Extension
Photos top to bottom: J Frank Schmidt, Plant Haven, Willoway Nurseries