One of the tallest trees in eastern North America is the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera, Magnoliaceae). These giants regularly exceed 150 feet, and some have been measured at nearly 200 feet. In addition to their great height, these trees are also remarkably straight.
Although also called tulip poplars or yellow poplars, these trees are not poplars. They’re in the magnolia family, while poplars are in the willow family (Salicaceae). The “tulip” part of the name comes from the resemblance the distinct four-lobed leaves and flowers have to tulip blossoms:
When I was hiking at Mammoth Cave National Park last week there were hundreds of these flowers littering the trails. Tulip trees seemed to be one of the dominant trees in that area. I’ve also seen them on glacial morainic ridges here in southeast Michigan, but in fewer numbers. They definitely seem to have a preference for the coarse, well-drained soil of hilly areas.