En EspaŅol

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
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 General Botany Questions

Correct spelling of Passiflora caerulea
August 07, 2007 - What is correct, passiflora coerulea or caerulea ?
view the full question and answer

Is Bushy Knotweed carcinogenic from West Grove PA
September 06, 2012 - Is the invasive Bushy Knotweed / PORA3 / Polygonum ramosissimum toxic to the extent that the spores are carcinogenic?
view the full question and answer

Dyes from native North American plants
November 29, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have been working as a textile designer for many years and am now interested in harvesting native North American plants in order to create natural dyes. Which plant ...
view the full question and answer

Ruffly foliage on native lantana
November 05, 2013 - A native lantana in my front yard has developed ruffly foliage on one stem. It looks like miniature broccoli. What can this be?
view the full question and answer

What are the native plants in Kerrville, Texas?
May 22, 2013 - What are the native plants in Kerrville, Texas?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center