tulip tree noun A large deciduous tree, the tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). Same as white wood, yellow poplar.
1928 Galyon Plant Naturalist 5 The king of the Smokies is the tulip tree; on the moist mountains slopes this tree reaches 10 feet in diameter, and 190 feet in height. The trunks are straight and free of branches for 100 feet. The trunks of the tulip tree are unsurpassed in grandeur of column by those of any eastern. . . Forest stands of tulip tree do not obtain, but many individuals grow thickly scatter throughout the range. 1941 Walker Story of Mt 66 The tulip-tree, or yellow poplar, is one of the most dignified and majestic trees growing . . . contrary to general belief, this tree is not a true poplar but belongs to the magnolia family. [1982 Stupka Wildflowers 38 The specific names, tulipifera, “tulip-bearing,” is appropriate, since this tree bears great quantities of tulip like flowers.]
The tulip poplars are blooming around my house. Since the trees are so tall, it’s hard to see the flowers unless you’re looking for them. I stopped by Pap’s grave the other day and as I cleaned up around the site I found the petals of a tulip poplar. I looked up to see where the tree was and saw it along the side of the cemetery just beyond where the grass ends. If I hadn’t seen the petals I would have never known it was there. Makes me think I need to take more time to look around and up at my surroundings.