The tulip tree’s name is derived from the shape of the flowers which somewhat resemble those of a tulip. It is a native of North America, where it grows from the Canadian border southward as far as Arkansas and Florida. It is found chiefly in moist forests on rich alluvial soils. Fossil remains of leaves indicate that, before the Ice Age, it or a similar species was also widely distributed in Europe.
The tulip tree is a large tree, growing, in Europe, to a height of 30 to 35 metres, and developing a straight trunk with roughly furrowed bark. It attains an age of 400 to 500 years. In winter it is distinguished by its distinctive buds and large leaf scars, in summer by its ornamental and striking saddle-shaped leaves. The flowers, appearing in June, are roughly tulip-shaped, 4 to 5 centimetres long. The winged seeds form a cone-like structure and disintegrate in the spring of the following year.
The tulip tree is widely cultivated in the parks of western and central Europe for its ornamental flowers, and for its leaves that turn yellow in autumn. The light wood, with yellow-brown heartwood and pale sapwood, is used to make veneers and musical instruments.
Leaves: Alternate, 10—15 cm long, with 2—4 lobes, entire margins and long stalks. Flowers: With yellow-green sepals and orange flushed petals. Fruit: Cone-like, 5—8 cm long, composed of winged seeds.