Tulip tree is a large, stately tree with a long, clear trunk and a pyramidal crown.
Leaves are alternate, simple, 4–6 inches long and broad, tip notched or V-shaped at the center, with 2 lobes near the tip and 2 or 4 lobes on the lower sides; margin entire, lobes pointed; leaves turn clear yellow in autumn.
Bark is gray at first, thin, tight, later gray to brown with rounded ridges and long, deep grooves.
Twigs are stout, brittle, greenish- to reddish-brown, sometimes with a whitish coating, aromatic, bitter; pores pale; end bud flattened, resembling a duck’s bill, ½ inch long.
Flowers May–June; large, showy, greenish-yellow, orange-banded at the base, waxy, tulip-shaped, 3–4 inches across, with 6 upright petals; stamens numerous, long.
Fruit matures September–October; brown, woody, conelike, longer than broad, tapering to a point, 2–3 inches long; seeds numerous, winged, light brown, about 1½ inches long.