The champion of the Arboretum’s first-ever Tournament of Trees is…the hybrid tulip tree! Liriodendron tulipifera x chinense is a unique hybrid of the American tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and the Chinese tulip tree (L. chinense). Hybrid tulip tree was selected by popular vote, from a compelling raft of sixteen contestants in week one of the tournament.
Native to the eastern United States, L. tulipifera is called tuliptree, tulip poplar, and yellow poplar. On the other side of the globe, the other species, Chinese tuliptree (L. chinense), grows from central to southeastern China. Although the two species look much alike, they can be differentiated by their leaves (those from the Chinese species are more deeply lobed) and by their flowers (the inner tepals of the American species carry bright orange markings). Despite being separated for millions of years, they can be cross pollinated successfully. The hybrid tulip tree displays intermediate characteristics from its parent trees. A beautiful specimen accessioned by the Arboretum in 1981 grows on the Hunnewell Building lawn.