Young trees have dark green and smooth bark with smooth white spots that break up into long, rough, interlacing rounded ridges separated by ash gray fissures as the tree gets older. The inner bark is also bitter and aromatic.
4 to 6 inches in diameter, mostly four lobed. Personal note from Melissa McHale (private consultant): A friend once described a tulip poplar’s leaf as, “if cat woman had a symbol this leaf would be it”. Ever since then, I have always seen a cat’s face hidden in the outline of a tulip poplar leaf. In my opinion, no other leaf can compare in beauty.
Appearing in late May or June after the leaves unfold; 1½ to 2 inches wide, cup shaped with 6 petal in two rows, light green yellow in color; 3 sepals; stamens and pistils are numerous and spirally arranged. Flowers resemble magnolia flowers, hence the common name tulip magnolia.
The erect, conelike aggregate of samaras is 2½ to 3 inches long. The winged seeds will flutter to the ground in Autumn, while the base of the cone often persists into winter.