En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Leaves turning yellow on Banana Shrub in Eutaw. AL
July 28, 2013 - We have a very large (about 12' tall), very old (probably planted in the early 1900s) Banana Shrub in our front yard. It was very healthy until last year when its leaves began turning yellow and fal...
view the full question and answer

Failure of smoke tree to bloom in Alburtis PA
September 07, 2009 - For whatever reason, my smoke tree did not bloom during its second season. Any ideas?
view the full question and answer

Understory trees for large trees in Austin
October 18, 2010 - I'm blessed with some beautiful large live oaks, burr oaks, and cedar elms in my front yard in southwest Austin. I'd like to plant some understory trees among them. The trees would get dappled lig...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native citrus trees from Mesa AZ
January 13, 2014 - We have one valencia orange tree and one naval orange tree in our Mesa, AZ yard. Just noticed some oranges on both trees have a 1/4 inch diameter hole through the skin and the orange fruit and skin a...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of desert willow in Wimberley TX
August 10, 2010 - I have a desert willow. It is always, whether I water it or leave it alone, yellow/ brown leaves, dark spots on the leaves, losing leaves. now it looks sad and not very healthy. Can you please tell m...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center