Family: Sapinsaceae Origin: Tropical and sub-tropical eastern Australia
A popular garden and urban tree, Tulipwood is a beautiful, native, hardy, and well-behaved small tree that suits landscapes well. It’s commonly used along urban coastal roads, as its toughness helps it to thrive in salty areas along ocean shores and in the less than ideal air and soil of the city. Its size makes it a valuable addition from a design standpoint alone, but it’s evergreen foliage, spring blooms and subsequent beautiful fruit make it a very good landscape specimen. It’s also a tree that provides high-quality lumber that is fine grained and dark in color, perfect for furniture making. Harpullias are part of a family of 26 other trees that scientists are studying for its naturally occurring and beneficial chemical properties- specifically for its saponin. Hence it’s family name- Sapinsaceae.
Tulipwood is a smaller tree. In the wild it can reach up to 24 metres, but in the urban landscape they are smaller- usually no more than 6 metres in height. It grows in a dense yet round shape, open, yet dense and even.
The trunk is an interesting grey color and sports a scaly texture. Despite its even appearance from afar, the trunk and branching structure is beautiful and interesting up close.
Light green, 5 petaled flowers on panicles form in the spring/summer (November through January).
Dark green leaflets are on one stem, numbering usually between three and eight. They usually measure between five and 12 centimeters each, are smooth on the sides, and are narrow ellipses with pointed ends. The veins of the leaves are easily visible on both sides of the leaves. This tree is evergreen as well.
One of the most attractive things about Tulipwood is its fruiting. From late summer into fall, the bright yellow and red capsules on heavy panicles open, revealing dark and very shiny seeds between the two halves of each capsule. Most often, there are two seed capsule pods for each flower, and they open back to back with their dark shiny seeds facing opposite of each other.
This tree is easily started from seed, fresh from the parent tree. Seeds can germinate right away after planting that same season, or sometimes they can take as long as two months. They do best planted right after harvesting for propagating.
Harpullia naturally enjoys a wide range of conditions, but thrives best in well-draining soils that are also moisture retentive. They can withstand drying out occasionally after they’ve been established. You don’t need to fertilize established trees, but adding some well-rotted compost or other organic matter to the planting hole of new trees is recommended for some moisture retention and initial feeding for young growth. You can plant this tree near buildings and by sidewalks and roadways, as the root systems are unobtrusive and not destructive. Tuliptrees grow slowly, but they are healthy and long-lived. Pruning to encourage a central trunk or two is recommended when the tree is young. After they’ve become large and established, they’re virtually care and worry free.
One special note- Tuliptree is dioecious, and requires a male and female tree to set fruit, if fruit is desired.
A native Australian tree perfectly suited for urban living and garden cultivation, Harpullia pendula is an ideal candidate for just about every landscape requirement.