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The Tulip Tree


Liriodendron tulipifera, Linn.

The tulip tree is a cousin, rather than a sister, to the fore going magnolias. It stands alone in its genus in America, but has a sister species that grows in the Chinese interior. A tall, stately forest tree, it reached two hundred feet in height, and a trunk diameter of ten feet, in the lower Ohio Valley, when it was covered with virgin forest. This species still holds its own as a valuable lumber tree on mountain slopes of North Carolina and Tennessee. Smaller, but still stately and beautiful, it is found in woods from Vermont to Florida and west to Illinois, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

In Europe the tulip tree has been a favorite since its dis covery and exportation by the American colonists. More and more it is coining to be appreciated at home as a lawn and shade tree, for there is no time in the year when it is not full of interest and beauty, and no time in its life when it is not a distinct and beautiful addition to any plantation.

In the dead of winter young tulip trees are singularly straight and symmetrical compared with saplings of other trees. There is usually a grove of them, planted by some older tree that towers overhead, and still holds up its shiny cones, that take months to give up their winged seeds. The close, thick, intricately furrowed bark of the parent tree contrasts sharply with the smooth rind of its branches and the stems of the saplings. Tulip trees are trim as beeches until the trunks are old.

The winter twigs are set with oblong blunt leaf-buds. The terminal one contains the flower, when the tree is old enough to bloom. (See illustration, page 103.) In spring the terminal buds of saplings best show the peculiarity of the tree's vernation. Two green leaves with palms to gether form a flat bag that encloses the new shoot. Hold

this bag up to the light and you see, as a shadow within, a curved petiole and leaf. The bag opens along its edge seam, the leaf-stem straightens, lifting the blade which is folded on the midrib. At the base of the petiole stands a smaller flat green bag. As the leaf grows to maturity the basal palms of its protecting bag shrivel and fall away, leaving the ring scar around the leaf base.

Now the growing shoot has carried up the second bag, which opens and another leaf expands, sheds its leafy stipules, and a third follows. The studies of this unique. vernation delight children and grown-ups. It is absolutely unmatched in the world of trees.

The leathery blades of the tulip tree are from four to six inches broad and long, with basal lobes, like those of a maple leaf, and the end chopped off square. Occasionally there is a notch, made by the two end lobes projecting a trifle beyond the midrib. The leaves are singularly free from damage, keeping their dark lustrous beauty through the summer, and turning to clear yellow before they fall.

The winged seeds fall first from the top of the erect cones, the wind whirling them far, because the flat blades are long and the seed-cases light—many of them empty in fact. Far into winter a tulip tree seems to be blossoming, because its bare branches are tipped with the remnants of the seed cones, faded and shining almost white against the dark branches.

Tulip wood is soft and weak, pale brown, and light in weight. It is easily worked and is used locally for house and boat-building. Wood pulp consumes much of the yearly harvest. It is known as "poplar," whose wood it resembles. Ordinary postal cards are made of it. The bark yields a drug used as a heart stimulant.

bag, leaf, trees, wood and saplings