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Stop and smell the Tulip Trees


It is one of my favorite times of the year. Tulip trees are in bloom.

My obsession with tulip trees began in fourth grade, learning about Indiana history, and having a teacher well connected with the outdoors. In that fourth grade class, we collected milk weed and monarch butterfly chrysalises, we had two white rats that we took turns taking home on the weekends, and our infamous pioneer week. We had to dress in old timey clothes, pack our lunches in wax paper, we made corn husks dolls and made homemade ice cream, taking turns for what felt like hours cranking the ice cream bucket. Somewhere in all the outdoor lessons of that class, we learned about the Indiana State Tree, the Tulip Tree or Tulip Poplar.

I remember learning how to identify the tallest hardword tree of North America by the leaves. The leaves some would say look like a tulip, but I remember my teacher describing them looking like the outline of a cat’s head.

I don’t know if it’s the size of them, but this isn’t a tree my fourth grade brain could fathom that it has flowers and blooms. I went home, asked my mom if we had a tulip tree. Quickly learned that our third base tree, was a Tulip Tree. Then made my dad let me borrow his binoculars to get a better look at the  blooms on it. Yesterday, I got to enjoy the blooms at my new home.

These flowers produce a large amount of pollen and nectar that attract a number of pollinators. Honey bees, native bees and beetles and hummingbirds all enjoy the tulip tree’s flowers. Yes, beetles. There actually a lot of beetles that work as pollinators, but more on that in my next article.

Tulip Trees flowers mid May to early June, so go out and enjoy the blooms while you can. Then, in the fall you will get to enjoy the golden yellow leaf color that makes the tulip a standout next to maples’ and oaks’ fall colors.


Tricia Herr is the Montgomery County Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resource. The office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at triciaherr@purdue.edu.