TULIP TREE (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Distinguishing characters: There are four characters that stand out conspicuously in the tulip treeā€”the bud, the trunk, the persistent fruit cups and the wedged leaf. The bud, about three-quarters of an inch long, is covered by two purplish scales which lend special significance to its whole appearance. The trunk is extremely individual because it rises stout and shaft-like, away above the ground without a branch. The tree flowers in the latter part of May but the cup that holds the fruit persists throughout the winter. The leaf has four lobes, is nearly as broad as it is long and so notched at the upper end that it looks different from any other leaf.
Bud, Leaf, and Flower
Form and size: The tulip tree is one of the largest, stateliest and tallest of our trees.
Tulip Tree in Spring
Range: Eastern United States.
Tulip Tree Range
Soil and location: Requires a deep, moist soil.

Enemies: Comparatively free from insects and disease.

Value for planting: The tree has great value as a specimen on the lawn but is undesirable as a street tree because it requires considerable moisture and transplants with difficulty. It should be planted while young and where it can obtain plenty of light. It grows rapidly.
Tulip Tree Trunk and Leaves
Commercial value: The wood is commercially known as whitewood and yellow poplar. It is light, soft, not strong and easily worked. It is used in construction, for interior finish of houses, woodenware and shingles. It has a medicinal value.
Tulip Tree Flower
Other characters: The flower is greenish yellow in color, appears in May and resembles a tulip; hence the name tulip tree. The fruit is a cone.
Tulip Tree Cones
Other common names: Whitewood; yellow poplar; poplar and tulip poplar.


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the lesson.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Recite aloud the vocabulary words and their definitions.
  • Learn the concepts.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


This lesson overviews the tulip tree, which grows lovely tulip-shaped flowers in May, and maintains its characteristic cups around its fruit (cones) into winter. The leaf and its four lobes are very distinctive. The scientific (Latinized) name of the tulip tree is Liriodendron tulipifera.


Fruit: The seed-bearing part of a plant, often edible, colorful and fragrant, produced from a floral ovary after fertilization.
Nut: A hard-shelled seed.
Seed: A fertilized ovule, containing an embryonic plant that may grow into a mature plant.



What is the difference between fruits, nuts, and seeds?

  1. A SEED is an embryonic plant that has the potential to grow into a new mature plant.
  2. A FRUIT encompasses and protects its seeds.
  3. A NUT is a dry fruit that typically encases one seed (rarely two).
  4. However, not all seeds are nuts.
  5. For example, apple seeds are not nuts.


Activity 1: Narrate the Lesson

  • After reading or listening to the lesson, narrate the lesson aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Lesson Pictures

  • Study the lesson pictures and describe how they relate to the lesson.

Activity 3: Take a Nature Walk

  • Bring a small sketchbook and a specimen collection bag and embark on a nature walk.
  • Seek out one or more cones, fruit, seeds, and nuts and collect them as specimens.
  • Use the gathered specimens and sketches to create the field book entry.

Activity 4: Complete a Field Book Entry   

After your nature walk, complete page 45 in 'Science Field Book for Fourth Grade.'


Question 1

How are nuts and seeds different?
1 / 3

Answer 1

A seed is an embryonic plant that is contained by a nut.
1 / 3

Question 2

How are nuts and fruit different?
2 / 3

Answer 2

A nut is a type of dry fruit.
2 / 3

Question 3

How are seeds and fruit different?
3 / 3

Answer 3

A fruit contains one or more seeds.
3 / 3

  1. How are nuts and seeds different? A seed is an embryonic plant that is contained by a nut.
  2. How are nuts and fruit different? A nut is a type of dry fruit.
  3. How are seeds and fruit different? A fruit contains one or more seeds.


  1. 'Studies of Trees' by Jacob Joshua Levison. gutenberg.org/ebooks/16116. n.p.
  2. 'Nut (fruit).' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  3. 'Plodovi Liriodendron tulipifera by Gmihail (CC BY-SA 3.0 RS)' Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Plodovi_Liriodendron_tulipifera.jpg. n.p.