Tulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera - L.

This is not the common tulip tree often seen in gardens, which is actually a type of magnolia.

Edible Uses

Edible Uses: Condiment.

The root is used as a lemon-like flavouring in spruce beer, where it also serves to correct the bitterness of the beer. The bark of the root and branches have a pleasant rather pungent scent.

Medicinal Uses

Anthelmintic; Aphrodisiac; Cardiac; Diuretic; Nervine; Poultice; Tonic.

The intensely acrid bitter inner bark, especially of the roots, is used domestically as a diuretic, tonic and stimulant. The raw green bark is also chewed as an aphrodisiac. The bark contains 'tulipiferine', which is said to exert powerful effects on the heart and nervous system. A tea is used in the treatment of indigestion, dysentery, rheumatism, coughs, fevers etc. Externally, the tea is used as a wash and a poultice on wounds and boils. The root bark and the seeds have both been used to expel worms from the body.

Other Uses

Dye; Wood.

A gold-coloured dye is obtained from the bark. Wood - fine grained, soft, light, easily worked, durable, brittle, not strong but does not split. A valuable timber, it weighs 26lb per cubic foot and is much used for interior finishes, furniture, construction and plywood. Native north americans used the tree for making canoes.

Cultivation details

Requires a deep rich soil and a sheltered but not overshadowed position. Prefers a slightly acid soil. Succeeds in sun or semi-shade. Flowers are first produced when the tree is about 15 - 20 years old, so don't chop it down - just give it a bit of time. Intolerant of root disturbance, plants are best grown in pots and placed into their final positions as soon as possible. Any transplanting is best done in May. Trees flower best in regions with long hot summers. The flowers produce considerable nectar, making this a good bee plant. Cultivated for its wood in Europe.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a shady place in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 3 weeks warm then 12 weeks cold stratification. Germination is usually poor, only about 1% of the seed is viable, so don't be surprised. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Layering in spring. Do not sever from the parent plant for 2 years.