Liriodendron tulipifera, or Yellow Poplar, is a deciduous tree that may grow 90 to 120 feet tall and takes its name from its greenish-yellow heartwood and attractive tulip-like flowers.
The tree has alternate, 4-lobed leaves with a smooth margin that do a royal wave in a breeze. In late spring, 2.5-inch flowers with yellow-green petals and an orange corolla mature.
The trunks of mature trees may reach 4 to 6 feet in diameter, usually rising column-like with an absence of lower branches; the greenish-yellow heartwood does not develop until the tree reaches about 2 feet in diameter. It has been known to reach 200 feet in height with a trunk diameter of 8 to 10 feet. The crown is compact, pyramidal, and often tapers sharply at the top.
This tree prefers moist, well-drained soil, full sun, and slightly acidic soil (even though it is pH adaptable). This tree is sensitive to heat and drought, and has a low compaction tolerance. It is the first tree in the woods to jettison yellow leaves during a drought. To plant, it needs a large area. This plant does best in natural areas. It can have superb fall color of yellow to golden yellow. Yellow Poplar are found throughout North Carolina and do best in deep, moist soils along streams and in lower mountain coves.
This plant is found naturally in mesic forests, cove forests at at least 1500' in elevation, bottomland forests, and swamps.
Liriodendron tulipifera can be pruned and kept at shrub size by cutting them to the ground every 2-3 years.