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The state tree of Indiana is commonly called a tulip poplar, but the name is misleading because the tree actually is a type of magnolia, and is no relation at all to the poplar. One glance at a flowering tulip tree’s blossoms, in fact, will bring to mind the beauty of a flowering magnolia. The tulip poplar’s yellow flowers, sporting a tinge of orange at the bottom and a touch of green in the petals, look like tulips placed on the tree’s branches and are quite beautiful. Its bloom time is the spring, and in Indiana that occurs April through June.
Other popular names for the state tree of Indiana or Liriodendron tulipifera are the whitewood tree, the tulip magnolia, yellow-poplar tree and tulip tree. Canoe tree is yet another name for the state tree of Indiana. It earned this moniker because native Americans used its wood to craft canoes called dugouts.
This tree is an ornamental tree whose wood is used for timber. It is used in the manufacture of some furniture parts and to make boxes, paper and plywood. It can take centuries for the tulip poplar to reach its maximum size, up to 7 feet (2.13 meters) in diameter, and its height can soar to 197 feet (60 meters).
In winter, the state tree of Indiana produces buds that look like the bill of a duck. Its twigs are purplish-brown and have a pleasant scent. The high crown of the tree grows to an oblong shape, while its trunk grows straight. The leaves turn gold or yellow in autumn. Hummingbirds and bees are drawn to the tree’s unique flowers and the nectar inside, which produces a high-quality honey. The tree’s roots are used in the manufacture of a drug that stimulates the heart.
The Indiana Legislature formally adopted the tulip tree as the state tree in 1931. It grows well in all areas of the state. The leaf is such a unique shape that the state uses its image as a border on the official state seal. For another of its state symbols, Indiana adopted the beautiful and fragrant peony as its state flower in 1957.