Tulip Tree Flowers

Hardly too much attention can be bestowed on flowers…Flowers were made to be seen, not overlooked.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 15 June 1852

My son, Noah, and I got out to the river together for a couple hours of trout fishing a few days ago. As we waded through the water and weaved around the top of a tree now living horizontally across the river, I noticed sunlight striking a flower, one of several peaking out through the treetop leaves.

Tulip tree flower in the sunlight over the Little Shenango River.

We were treated to an unusually close-up view of the flower of the tulip tree, also know as yellow poplar or tulip poplar. No matter what one calls it, Liriodendron tulipifera is not a poplar, but it is a beauty. It grows tall and straight, and the leaves are a fun shape. But, contrary to Thoreau’s suggestion, it doesn’t seem that these flowers were made to be seen, unless by a bird. As Charles Fergus put it in his book Trees of Pennsylvania and the Northeast: “Borne high up in the tree, the blossoms are rarely seen; the woodland walker is more apt to notice petals from the spent flowers lying on the ground.”

Fortunately, tulip trees have a wide range beyond Pennsylvania, covering most of the US east of the Mississippi. If you can’t find one alive and low enough to see the blooms, maybe you can find one that has fallen recently; tulip trees make nice bowls. There’s one on the right, below:

I found more flowers than trout. Noah caught seven, I only fooled one and fell flat into a patch of tall weeds and briars. And it was time well spent.

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13 Responses to Tulip Tree Flowers

  1. Scott Thomas says:

    Whether fish were caught or not, I’m sure it was time well spent. Enjoy every opportunity. As for the tulip tree, we have two in our yard. I think of you and your bowls if I ever have to take one down. Which is quite likely.

    Like

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Lot’s of possibilities, Scott. In Drew Langsner’s book “Green Woodworking,” he goes through the process of making some wonderful containers from young tulip poplar bark.

      Like

  2. francedozois says:

    there’s one down the street from me and trying to see the flower ain’t easy. And this is absolutely true:
    But, contrary to Thoreau’s suggestion, it doesn’t seem that these flowers were made to be seen, unless by a bird. As Charles Fergus put it in his book Trees of Pennsylvania and the Northeast: “Borne high up in the tree, the blossoms are rarely seen; the woodland walker is more apt to notice petals from the spent flowers lying on the ground.”

    Like

  3. Bobs Email says:

    David, thank you for sharing the beauty of the Tulip Poplar!!!!

    Bob Simmons Sun City West, AZ

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tad Kepley says:

    Good stuff Dave. I always enjoy your post because we share greenwood, beauty and family values.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve Gardner says:

    Always enjoy your posts. I have some green tulip poplar thanks to a recent storm. Some perfect sized pieces for shrink pots. Do you think it will work or will the thin walls crack as it dries?

    Like

  6. theoutlawjoseywales says:

    Hi David,

    Hope this finds you well! Some nice blogs of recent, thanks!

    Re the current blog – the editorial pedant in me has to tell you that the Tulip tree is L. tuliPifera…! 👍😉

    Have a great weekend, and don’t fall in anymore weed patches!

    Mike (Amphlett)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thanks, Mike! You were the second person (the first was through an email) kind enough to tell me about the spelling error, so I have fixed it in the post. I appreciate it. And, so far, the weekend has been fall-free!

      Like

  7. Joe says:

    One of the things I like about tulip poplar (assuming this is indeed the poplar I buy at the lumber store) is that I can sometimes find pieces with fantastic colors. I like this and when making shop furniture or drawer insides, I really like to hunt down and use this kind of wood. Very pretty. Then again, I like wood to look like wood and not some extruded product. Knots look beautiful when I finish them with shellac. Of course, I usually put this kind of stuff on the non-show faces. It really ends up being my private viewing and not appreciated by others. Then again, as a woodworker, I probably spend way more time looking at the grain than most non-woodworkers ever will. From my perspective, it’s one of the free perks of being a woodworker, along with the distinct scent (not saw dust) different woods have.

    Like

    • Dave Fisher says:

      Good point, Joe. Folks often refer to tulip poplar as paint-grade, but there can be some wonderful purples and deep brown streaks in some pieces. I carved a big molar (not for dental use) for a local dentist several years ago from a chunk of poplar like that. Hardly recognizable as poplar.

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  8. The map can expanded a little bit in Ontario. It stops around Oakville but I’ve seen a large one near a friend’s house in a downtown Toronto. Thanks for reminding me to check out it’s blooms this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

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