USA Official State Tree of Tennessee


Tulip/Yellow PoplarTree, a state symbol

(Magnoliaceae Liriodendron tulipifera)
Adopted in 1947.



See also the Bicentennial State Tree: Yellowwood Tree


The tulip poplar, Magnoliaceae Liriodendron tulipifera, was designated as the official state tree of Tennessee by Public Chapter 204 of the Acts of the 1947 General Assembly. The act stated that, as no state tree had ever before been designated, the adoption of an official tree seemed appropriate.




The tulip poplar was chosen because it was used extensively by the Tennessee pioneers to construct their houses, barns and other buildings. The tree sometimes reaches a height of 200 feet and frequently shows 50-100 feet of trunk without a branch. The bark is smooth and brownish gray. The leaves are very smooth with a broad notch at the tip. The flowers are tulip-like, green-orange in color, and are 1-3 inches deep. In honor of the state's Bicentennial celebration in 1996, the yellowwood was named Tennessee's bicentennial tree.


The following description of the tulip poplar, the botanical name of which is Liriodendron Tulipifera, is taken from The Complete Guide to North American Trees:

    "Perhaps the most stately tree of our range, it sometimes reaches a height of 200 feet with a stem as regular as though turned on a lathe and frequently showing 50 to 100 feet of trunk without a branch. The twigs are smooth, brownish gray, becoming cracked into a regular network of shallow, firm ridges; an old trunk bro-ken into deep, rough ridges. Its leaves are very smooth and shin-ing with a broad notch at the tip, usually four-lobbed, 2 to 8 inches long. Its flowers are tulip-like, green orange, 1 to 3 inches deep. The fruit is cone-like hanging on through the year, and is 2 to 3 inches long."

Yellow-poplar (Liriodendron 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 large areas.

  • 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 common.
  • 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.


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision  Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division  Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class  Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass Magnoliidae –
      Order Magnoliales –
         Family Magnoliaceae – Magnolia family
            Genus Liriodendron L. – tuliptree
                     Species Liriodendron tulipifera L. – tuliptree


Tennessee State Bicentennial Tree

Yellowwood State Tree

Cladrastis kentuckea (formerly Cladrastis lutea)
Adopted in 1991.


See also the Tennessee Tree
Tulip/Yellow Poplar



The Yellowwood tree, Cladrastis kentuckea, was designated as the Official Bicentennial Tree of Tennessee by Senate Joint Resolution Number 62 of 1991. The resolution stated that the Yellowwood tree, scientifically known as Cladrastis lutea, is a native Tennessee ornamental tree of unsurpassed beauty, worthy of being grown in yards and public spaces across Tennessee and should serve as a tribute to the pioneering spirit of those individuals whose courage and perseverance paved the way for the settlement of the great state of Tennessee.


The American Yellowwood is a medium sized tree reaching 35' to 50' tall and about the same in spread (40' - 50' wide). The habit of yellowwood is vase shaped to broad spreading when young, then gradually opening to a broad rounded form. Bright green leaves, which are alternate, odd-pinnately compound with 7-9 leaflets turn yellow in the fall. The bark of Cladrastis is a very smooth gray resembling that of a beech tree. The wood just beneath the bark is yellowish, hence the name yellowwood. Flowers of the yellowwood are white, pendulous terminal panicles, 10" - 12" long, appearing in late May to early June. Flowering tends to be heavy on alternate years.

Yellowwood is native to Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and surrounding states. Hardiness ranges from Zone 4 to Zone 8. Yellowwood tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions. With the ability to withstand limestone or acid soils as well as being drought tolerant, yellowwood should become a very popular flowering landscape tree. Yellowwood is seed propagated and field grown. It is easily transplanted and establishes very nicely. There are very few problems with yellowwood. With its beautiful flowers, fall color, adaptability, shape and size, yellowwood could be one of our most popular native trees for landscape use.
Family: Leguminosae or Fabaceae


Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8


Height: 40 ft Spread: 35 ft Form: (Vis. 1) rounded


Type: deciduous tree


Annual Growth Rate: less than 12 inches


Leaf: Pinnately compound leaflets are alternate along rachis, Rachis base completely surrounds bud


Buds: Brown and fuzzy and leaf scar completely encircles bud, as in Platanus


Bark: Smooth light gray very beechlike, quite attractive, and name yellowwood comes from the yellow heartwood


Flowers:  White, pea-like flowers, fragrant, in 10" to 16" long clusters, bloom time is early June, resembles wisteria flowers, and blooms heavily every 2 or 3 years


Fruit: Flattened pod several seeds 2.5" to 4" long green pods that turn brown in October.


Culture: Full sun, likes moist, fertile, well-drained soils, not too particular about pH, prune in summer to avoid "bleeding" that occurs in winter and spring, and protect from winter sun and wind


Range: Found only in the Blue Ridge and Ridge and Valley regions of Georgia, usually on limestone cliffs and ridges and in Appalachian cove forests. Very rare in the wild. Prefers northfacing cove sites or river bank bluffs

Use: Ornamental, lawn tree, specimen for flowers and foliage, for attractive winter bark, for attractive fall foliage, and yellow dye and is used for carvings.


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision  Spermatophyta -- Seed plants
Division  Magnoliophyta -- Flowering plants
Class  Magnoliopsida -- Dicotyledons
Subclass Rosidae –
Order Fabales –
Family Fabaceae – Pea family
Genus Cladrastis Raf. – yellowwood
Species Cladrastis kentukea (Dum.-Cours.) Rudd – Kentucky yellowwood