En EspaÑol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - What caused purple heartwood in my Tuliptree?

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 15, 2009

From: Mendham, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: General Botany, Trees
Title: What caused purple heartwood in my Tuliptree?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

My Tulip tree was hit by lightning and all bark from the base of the tree up to 50 feet was blown off. The tree also sustained a significant crack through the trunk. When the tree was cut down, we noticed a deep purple color throughout the trunk. If you think of the rings of the trunk with 1 - 15 years being at the core, 16 - 30 as another set, and 31 to 50 as a third set of rings. The purple color was found in most of the 16 - 30 year bands. Have you ever seen this before? What caused it?

ANSWER:

Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree) is a native tree of eastern North American forests.  It is our tallest eastern tree.  Also called Tulip poplar, White poplar and Yellow poplar, among many other common names, Tuliptree is noted for its soft, white sapwood and colorful heartwood.  

Tuliptree wood is useful for many woodworking applications.  If you have an old solid wood, hardwood dresser, chances are good that the drawer sides, backs and bottoms are all made of Tulip poplar.  In many of those old drawer pieces you can see discolored heartwood like that which you found in your tree.  Most older Tulip poplar trees have bands of green, brown, purple or other colors in the heartwood of the tree.  These colors are created when compounds known as extractives are deposited into the forming rings of heartwood.  The color of the deposits are determined largely by the mineral content of the soil in which the tree is growing.  However, we do not know which specific minerals are responsible for the purple coloration of the wood in your tree.

 

More Trees Questions

Fruit trees for South Austin.
January 25, 2008 - I live in South, South Austin, just a pinch West of 35 near 1626. I would like to plant some fruit trees in the back yard. Anyone will sell fruit trees, but they don't always grow. What fruiting var...
view the full question and answer

Why so many Sugar Hackberry seedlings in my back yard in The Woodlands, TX?
May 25, 2013 - Why do I have so many Sugar Hackberry seedlings (Celtis Laevigata) sprouting up naturally in my back yard? There are a few Winged Elms in my neighborhood, but no Sugar Hackberry trees that I know of....
view the full question and answer

What to do with ailing live oak trees
May 04, 2010 - We live in far north San Antonio, TX on a 2 acre lot with many trees.. about 25% oak and 75% cedar. About 15% of our live oak trees have not sprouted leaves yet this spring, or have only sprouted leav...
view the full question and answer

Black Walnut tree in LA
March 12, 2012 - I was just given a black walnut tree and am trying to determine where to place it. I’ve read on your site that “Certain plants will not grow under Black Walnut trees because of the juglones that the ...
view the full question and answer

Pecan tree dropping limbs in Grand Prairie, TX.
September 04, 2012 - Our 15 year old pecan tree is losing it's limbs. The tree and its leaves look healthy with no signs of bugs or mites, but all the limbs are drooping and breaking off. The tree did have a bumper crop ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center