Monday, May 14, 2012

Sometimes it feels so good to be wrong...

While driving home the other day a bit of color on the road caught my eye. As the car passed, something attached to that bit of color flapped. My first thought was that one of the newly returned  warblers had been a victim of automobile traffic.  I thought I saw pale yellow, maybe a spot of orange, some blue-gray. My imagination quickly converted that quick glance into a Parula warbler.

At the first chance I had I pulled the car over and walked back to examine the casualty. I'm happy to say that it was not a Parula warbler. It was not even a bird. Here's what it was:

This is the flower of the tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera.  The genus name Liriodendron is formed from the classical Greek words for lily and tree; the name of the species, tulipifera, is New Latin and means "tulip bearing".  Many people are surprised when they learn that it is a member of the magnolia family. And those flowers do look like tulips - there is a horticultural class of tulips sometimes called Viridiflora tulips, some of which have green flowers.

In popular parlance there is another "tulip tree" in our gardens: the early flowering magnolias are often so called.

All of my adult life I've been curious about the source of a scent which fills our local woods early in the growing season. I think that scent might be from the Liriodendron tulip trees. This scent is apparent long before the flowers open, so it must be coming from the new vegetative growth if in fact it is coming from the tulip trees. For me, this scent defines the scent "woodsy". 

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