Getting to Know the Tulip Tree

Among the many flowers found in Eliza Howell is a striking one that, I am quite sure, very few visitors see: the flower of the Tulip Tree, which blooms in late May and early June.


Different from many other flowering trees, the leaves are fully developed before the flowers appear, making the flowers less visible. In addition, the tree is rare in Eliza Howell; I am aware of exactly one. But it is definitely worth it to find the singular tree and get an up-close look.


These pictures were taken May 29. So was the next one, of a flower getting ready to burst from the bud.


The northern end of the natural range of the tulip tree, a type of magnolia, is southern Michigan, so we do not encounter many around here. By contrast, it is the state tree of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. It can grow to well over 100 feet (in which case, the flowers tend to be mostly out of range for close-up looks), but the EHP one I know is much smaller.

This picture was taken in the middle of May this year.


The tree is found within the road loop, toward the Fenkell end of the loop. It is right next to a spruce tree, which is behind it in the picture.

The Tulip Tree gets its name, I strongly suspect, from the flower. But the leaf looks something like a tulip and doesn’t the empty seed shell that hangs on all winter also suggest a tulip?


In the Fall, the leaves turn yellow.


For most of my life, I had no real knowledge of tulip trees. I thank this particular tree for providing me the opportunity to get to know a fascinating species. I invite others to pay it a visit.