Liriodendron is a genus in the magnolia family (Magnoliaceae) consisting of two extant species of trees known loosely as Tulip trees. The better known one, Liriodendron tulipifera, is from North America and is sometimes called Tulip poplar or Yellow poplar, although it is not even closely related to true poplars (Populus). The second one, Liriodendron chinense, the Chinese tulip tree, is from China and Vietnam. These are both large deciduous trees, often exceeding 100 feet (30m) in height, that are both commonly known as Tulip trees.
At one time there were additional species but these are now known only in the fossil record and we are left with the surviving two, the North American and the Asian.
The Chinese tulip tree was introduced by the famous plantsman Ernest Wilson as far back 1901 though mysteriously it remains rare. It is very similar to the American species, and although the American species is the most popular, with numerous excellent cultivars, there are some unique traits to recommend the Chinese tulip tree.  The most noticeable difference occurs in early spring when the emerging foliage of the Chinese tulip tree has a pronounced purple flush that is beautiful and rich. And the leaves themselves differ slightly in that they are larger, more deeply-lobed and have a paler under-side which is most appreciated  when fluttering in the breeze. The saddle shaped leaves are a rich emerald green all summer and then turn a bright clear yellow for autumn, making for a full three-season interest. And then there is the bloom. The flowers are beautiful in both species but the Chinese tree’s flowers are less yellow and more chartreuse in color and are borne prolifically.

Chinese tulip tree is not as hardy as the American species, but is grown across much of the world including the UK, where there are many excellent specimens at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and North America, where it is grown as far north as coastal New England in the east and Vancouver, British Columbia in the west. And it is every bit as fast-growing as the American tulip tree.

This is a vigorous, healthy tree that becomes a stately specimen for larger properties. It is even more impressive when grouped along a drive or boundary. It prefers a slightly acid, damp, but well-drained soil and will thrive in full sun or partial shade.

Chinese Tulip tree


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