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Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora

Tulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera

The Tulip tree, from the Greek “ liriodendron”, lily tree, is a member of the Magnolia family, native of eastern North America. It grows tall and straight; it can reach up to 160 feet in height, loving the sun. The valuable hard wood is prized; Native Americans made their canoes, artists carve their artwork from it and known also as yellow poplar wood, it is used commonly in furniture and cabinet making.

It is breathtakingly beautiful when in full bloom in the spring, laid out in abandon with large pale, yellow/green flowers, resembling in shape the form of tulips, wide orange bands winding around the outer six petals. 

I wanted very much to draw this tree and make an etching of the processes it undergoes in its summer of growth. Looking at the specimens growing in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I sadly realized that their height and lack of lower branches would always prevent me from being able to see their flowers up close. The leaves were developing and the fruit cones of the previous summer’s bounty were strewn over the ground for me to pick up and examine, but the erect flowers on the branches would never be close enough to study. the beginning of early Spring I saw a fairly young tree growing in a nearby cemetery, carrying the previous years cones still, and from that lucky day onward, I visited the tree almost every week and watched its development. It still had many branches growing low on its trunk so that the plethora of leaves, flowers, branches and all was there at my fingertips throughout the seasons.

As I followed the growth of the tree, I realized that I would want to show a variety of the stages in my representation. From first buds to the late central spike, surrounded by the rich foliage of the four and six lobed leaves, I hoped to create a comprehensive and melodious picture.

I saw a leaf that had been chomped on by a hungry creature and I learned that it was the caterpillar of the silk moth, Callosamia promethea, which feeds on the tree. But despite this enemy, the tree can live for hundreds of years, given favorable conditions.

I am looking forward to this coming summer, when I want to visit the “Queens Giant”, a tulip tree suspected of already having lived 450 years, the oldest and tallest tree in New York City, 133 feet tall, in the public park of Alley Pond in Queens, NY., just a borough away.


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Read more about this artist’s work: Out of the Woods

Worldwide-deVriesTulip Tree

Liriodendron tulipifera

Tulip Tree

perplate etching wih chine colle, hand-colored


©2017 Monika deVries Gohlke

2024 ASBA - All rights reserved

All artwork copyrighted by the artist. Copying, saving, reposting, or republishing of artwork prohibited without express permission of the artist.

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