Genus Web Page by: Deborah Leigh Brown

Genus Lirodendron

by: Deborah Leigh Brown

  • The name Liriodendron is derived from the Greek words leirion meaning lily and dendron meaning tree.

  • The genus Liriodendron belongs to the family, Magnoliaceae, which are woody trees and shrubs containing 12 genera and around 220 species. They have alternate, deciduous, simple, and usually entire leaves. The common name for the genus Liriodendron is the tulip tree.

    Photographed by: Deborah Leigh Brown

    Example of a Magnolia Tree in the family Magnoliaceae

  • Liriodendron are recognized by their characteristic leaves. The alternate leaves are 4-6 lobed with the middle lobe cut off or notched at the tip. They are dark green above and paler underneath. These leaves turn butter yellow in the fall. They produce tulip-shaped flowers during the midsummer at the tips of the branches. These flowers are pale green with banded orange tepals at the base. The cone-shaped fruits contain many overlapping winged seeds. Liriodendron are described as "deciduous trees; buds covered by two pruinose stipules fused at the margin; leaves alternate, usually four to six lobed, truncate at the apex; flowers terminal, attractive, solitary, campanulate, with three outspread sepals and six upright petals; stamens numerous, with long filaments, directed outward, linear anthers; ovaries numerous, on a spindle form, elongated column; fruit cone-like, brown, composed of winged, single seeded achenes" (Krussmann, 1977).

  • The genus Liriodendron consists of two species. One specie, Liriodendron chinense, is found in central and southern China as well as northern Vietnam. The other specie, Liriodendron tulipifera, is found in the eastern United States.

    Genus: Liriodendron
    L. chinenseChinese TuliptreeMerkle, 1993
    L. tulipiferaTuliptree, Yellow Poplar, Whitewood, Tulip Poplar, Blue Poplar, Saddletree, Canoewood, the Poplar Tulip-bearing Lily TreeChandler, 1988
    Loudon, 1853

  • The Chinese Tuliptree has been described as being smaller than the Yellow Poplar. "The most reliable morphological characters distinguishing the two species are the size, shape, and coloration of the flowers" (Merkle, 1993). L. tulipifera have orange blotches at the base of the inner tepals and L. chinense flowers are green with yellow veins. L. chinense flowers are smaller with petals 3 to 4 centimeters long and l. tulipifera flowers are larger with petals 4 to 5 centimeters long. L. chinense leaves are narrower waisted at the lobe junction than those of L. tulipifera and are more blue-white underneath. L. chinense grows to 40 meters high whereas L. tulipifera grows to 60 meters high. The leaves of L. chinense are usually larger than those of L. tulipifera

  • Liriodendron are rapid-growing trees that do well in all types of fertile soil, and they are best propagated by seed. They should be planted in the spring as balled or container-grown plants. They are not recommended for cities or areas without a lot of root space. Deep, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil is best. Aphids can be a problem and the trees are easily damaged by some herbicides. Otherwise, they are hardy and long-lived. Liriodendron are grown as shade trees as well as ornamental trees. They are used for construction grade lumber and plywood. The timber is known in the market as Canary Whitewood.


    Chandler, Philip, et al. Taylor's Guide to Trees. New York: Chanticleer Press, 1988.

    Krussmann, Gerd. Manual of Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees and Shrubs. Hong Kong: Timber Press, 1977.

    Loudon, J.C. An Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs. London: Spottiswoodes and Shaw, 1853.

    Merkle, Scott A, et al. "Propagation of Liriodendron Hybrids Via Somatic Embryogenesis." Plant Cell, Tissue, and Organ Culture 34 (1993): 191-198.

    (C) Copyrights 97 Deborah Leigh Brown