Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Fast growing native trees for firewood in New Hampshire
September 25, 2008 - Can you tell me what FAST growing tree is best for a planned crop? We plan to generate new tree crops every year. We want to use this wood for burning in indoor wood stoves and maybe in an outdoor woo...
view the full question and answer

Growing non-native avocado outside from Austin
December 27, 2012 - My son has a very large avocado tree that he rooted from a pit that is currently growing in a large container. However, it has gotten too big to winter inside. Can it be planted in the ground in Aust...
view the full question and answer

Cupressaceae dying in Suffolk Co.NY
October 20, 2012 - I have noticed that all of my Cupressaceae (& others I see in my area) are dying. They turn yellow, then rust & brown til they are everbrowns. what is going on?
view the full question and answer

Update on controlling live oak suckers with newspapers, cardboard and mulch
September 12, 2014 - Can we get an update on the march 2011 topic of live oak suckers? I am wondering if the newspaper/cardboard/mulch layers continued to take care of the problem. Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Larvae infesting Mexican white oak
December 16, 2010 - What larvae/worm would dwell and eat the inside of a Mexican White Oak? I planted one last November and it was doing great. The bark started cracking towards the bottom but the top was very full & gre...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.