Yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) can grow to be a majestic tree. This moderately close view of a young tree allows us to see and study the uniquely shaped leaves. Each leaf has four lobes. The top and base of the leaf blade look like they are nearly a straight line across the leaf. Consequently, the overall shape is frequently referred to as a square. The blade’s top margin does have a shallow indentation which helps to create the four distinct lobes.
One of the remarkable and beautiful aspects of Yellow poplar are its spring flowers. Since the tree doesn’t begin to produce flowers until it has grown for about 15-25 years, the flowers end up at quite some height — which doesn’t allow for easy access to study them. Thankfully, some of those flowers are blown to the ground in wind storms. This way we can see them more closely. Here’s an example of a flower which has lost quite a few parts. You can still see the lovely petal colors — cream to orange to green.
After the flowers mature into seeds, the yellow poplar tree displays its cone-like seed clusters. Each set of two seeds with wings — a samara — breaks away from the cluster and spirals to the ground. Sometimes you can find the whole “cone” with its seeds on the ground resting on top of dead Yellow poplar leaves.
Each tan samara ends in a sharp, hard point — where the seeds are located. If you accidentally step on them with bare feet, you’ll become painfully aware of the nearby presence of a Yellow poplar tree.
The bark of Yellow poplar trees varies as it ages. This next image shows the bark of a tree which is probably 30-50 years old.
To learn about identification characteristics for Yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) during various seasons of the year, to see some great photos of its flowers and spring leaf emergence, and to learn lots more intriguing information about the tree, watch this video: