Tree blooming June/July
The Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are related to the genus (group of plants with common characteristics) Magnoliaceae, the Magnolias, but differ in the fact that they never have a pointed leaf, their terminal buds (formed at the end of twigs) are of a different shape and their seed vessels are closed.
The original trees were found in North America and records prove that this was cultivated in Fulham, England by Bishop Compton, as far back as 1688. Originally, the North American Tulip Tree was thought to be monotypic (a single species or genus). However, a related form, Liriodendron chinense, was found in 1875 growing at altitude in the Lushan Mountains of China.
The North American form reaches considerable size in its native environment with heights of 60m and trunk diameters of 3m not uncommon. The largest specimens in England have been recorded at approximately 33m. The leaves are distinctly unique, being large, saddle-shaped and with the apex (tip) being very broad and 'cut off' almost square.
The tulip-shaped flowers are produced in late June, but mostly July. The petals are oblong, 3 or 4cm long, erect and overlapping to form a cup or tulip shape. The colour is a greenish-white with an orange spot at the base. The centre contains a large pistil (female organ) surrounded by numerous stamens (male organs). The leaves turn a rich butter yellow in autumn.
In its wild state, the Tulip Tree extends from Nova Scotia to Florida and, as well as being much prized as a specimen garden tree for its leaves, flowers and large trunk, the timber is extensively used. This cut timber sold under the name 'White Wood' is used for many indoor uses and, while not being a strong timber, does not split readily. It is close-grained, smooth, and yellow in colour.