Tulip Tree - The Indiana State Tree

by kimbesa

The tulip-shaped leaves make this tree easy to identify. It's beautiful and useful, for home and public places..

The tall and stately tulip tree is the state tree of Indiana. Also called tulip poplar or yellow popular, this statuesque tree stands out in parks and yards all around Indiana, and the rest of its native habitat in eastern North America.

Besides the size and shape of the tree itself, its tulip-shaped leaves and flowers are also distinctive. The flowers are easy to see because they are more pronounced than those of many other trees.

Tulip trees are often planted as ornamentals or specimen trees, in lawns and parks. And of course, they are especially popular on Indiana college campuses.

Tulip trees remind me of school days, when I was making a leaf collection in summer biology, and for 4-H forestry displays. It’s easy to remember and appreciate this tree.

A Cousin To The Magnolia

One of 200 species, most native to North America and Asia

The tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, is a member of the magnolia family. Its flower can be almost 2 inches long, a lot showier than many other trees, but a plain cousin to the large blossoms of ornamental magnolia trees.

The tulip tree makes up for this in height. A fully grown tulip tree reaches 150 to 160 feet tall. If you have one of these in your yard, you know it!

In the wild, this tree is found in deciduous, upland woods with moist soil.  They are pollinated by bees. It is a fine example of the trees that are native to the eastern forests of North America.

A Tall Tree in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Tree for the Front Yard
A Beautiful Tree for the Front Yard
Photo by kimbesa

From Log Cabins to City Parks

Hoosiers, those from Indiana, claimed this tree as the official state tree

Early Hoosiers had to appreciate the tulip tree that was so common in the woods – tall and straight, with soft wood that is easily worked. In times past, poplar wood was often used for painted furniture and construction. They would have used this wood to full advantage.

Tulip tree leaves Indiana state treeThe tulip tree was designated as the state tree in 1931. It may have been chosen because it was favored for building log cabins in the early days of the state. Straight trunks, light weight for the size, fast growing yet strong, and plentiful – all qualities that would make it a settler’s easy choice when looking for lumber to build a log house.

Today, tulip trees are popular in urban environments that are difficult for growing many other trees. It has an upright shape, and can withstand extremes of heat and cold, and air pollution, too.  

The tulip tree’s range shows how versatile it is, too. It grows from humid tropics in Florida, north into Canada – literally from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes.  It is related to the mountain magnolia or cucumber tree, which has a similar range, including higher elevations in the Smoky Mountains.

Kentucky and Tennessee also have made the tulip tree their state trees.

First of Indiana Trees

Street planting tulip tree
Street planting tulip tree
Photo by kimbesa

Tulip Tree

Distinctive shaped leaves
Distinctive shaped leaves
Photo by kimbesa
Updated: 07/04/2013, kimbesa
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Do You Like Trees?

kimbesa on 07/05/2013

In the mild areas of BC, I think this tree might grow if you could get some from Ontario.

kimbesa on 07/05/2013

Glad to have helped you identify this beautiful tree!

sheilamarie on 07/05/2013

Love 'em! I wish these grew where I live. The flowers look beautiful.

ologsinquito on 07/05/2013

Hi kimbesa, this is really interesting. I've seen these trees, but never knew what they were.

kimbesa on 07/05/2013

Thanks! I've been finding them in a lot of public places around here. Maybe one for our yard eventually.

KathleenDuffy on 07/05/2013

Lovely article! I love trees very much.

kimbesa on 07/04/2013

Thanks! Yes, they grow down your way. The leaves wave easily in the breeze and the trees stand out in a part or yard.

fitzcharming on 07/04/2013

Of course I like trees. I'm a tree hugger extraordinaire! Seriously I didn't know these grew in Florida. I'll have to scope some out. Looks like a beautiful landscape tree. Great photos.

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