Adopted on July 15, 1994.
The controversy over Kentucky's state
tree brewed for more than 40 years
before being decided in 1994, with the
selection of the Yellow Poplar,
Magnoliaceae Liriodendron tulipifera,
a.k.a. Tulip Tree or Tulip Poplar, or in
botanical books .
Not an actual poplar, the Tulip
Poplar is a member of the magnolia
family. Its name is derived from the
greenish-yellow tulip-like flowers the
tree produces in the spring, usually in
May. (Also, the leaves look like
silhouettes of a tulip -- although most
say that has nothing to do with its
The flowers' petals fall shortly
after blooming, leaving behind
cone-shaped clusters of winged seeds
that ripen in the fall and drift away.
The seeds are eaten by various types of
birds and small animals, but aren't
great favorites of any, except possibly
cardinals. Once the seeds are blown away
or devoured, the cones remain throughout
Tulip Poplars are rapid-growing and
long-lived. They grow straight and are
tall, averaging about 100 feet. The
tallest living Tulip Poplar, according
to the National Register of Big Trees,
is located in Bedford, Virginia at 111
feet high, with a trunk over 31 feet
around. The trunks of the Tulip Poplar
are stout with gray furrowed bark. A
Tulip Poplar's age can be estimated from
the density, darkness of color, and
amount of furrows in the bark. The
oldest living Tulip Poplar, located in
New York, is approximately 225 years
In Kentucky, the Tulip Poplar prefers
the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Tulip
Poplars thrive in deep, moist soils
along streams and in mountain coves.
They need full sunlight to grow and
develop; in dense woods,
newly-germinated seedlings will survive
only a few weeks. Instead, stands of
Tulip Poplars are usually established in
abandoned fields by wind-borne seeds.
tulipifera), also called tuliptree,
tulip-poplar, white-poplar, and
whitewood, is one of the most attractive
and tallest of eastern hardwoods. It is
fast growing and may reach 300 years of
age on deep, rich, well-drained soils of
forest coves and lower mountain slopes.
The wood has high commercial value
because of its versatility and as a
substitute for increasingly scarce
softwoods in furniture and framing
construction. Yellow-poplar is also
valued as a honey tree, a source of
wildlife food, and a shade tree for
Kentucky Revised Statutes
2.095 State tree.
The tulip poplar is named and
designated as the Kentucky state
Effective: July 15, 1994
History: Amended 1994 Ky. Acts
ch. 40, sec. 1, effective July
15, 1994. -- Created
1976 Ky. Acts ch. 43, sec. 1,
effective June 19, 1976.
- Leaf: Alternate, simple,
palmately veined, orbicular, 4-lobed
with an entire margin, 4 to 8 inches
long. Somewhat shaped like a tulip.
- Flower: Showy, but high
in the tree, 2 1/2 inches long, with
yellow-green petals and an orange
corolla. Present April to June.
- Fruit: An oblong
aggregate of samaras, deciduous at
maturity. Each samara is 1-winged, 1
1/2 inches long, and 4-angled.
Maturing August to October.
- Twig: Red-brown in color,
often with a shiny appearance or a
waxy bloom. Stipules are large and
encircle the twig. Buds are
elongated and valvate, resembling a
"duck bill". Twigs have a sweet,
spicy odor when broken.
- Bark: Light gray-green in
color, often with white in grooves
or in patches. Smooth when young,
developing flat-topped ridges and
furrows in diamond shaped patterns.
On older trees sapsucker holes are
- Form: In a stand, this
tree is very straight with a
limb-free bowl. Open-grown trees
have a pyramidal crown when young,
becoming oval in shape.
||Plantae -- Plants
||Spermatophyta – Seed
||Magnoliaceae – Magnolia
||Liriodendron L. –
L. – tuliptree
Dendrology at Virginia Tech
U.S. Department of Agriculture