ASK THE GARDENERS. Q & A
Q This past spring I visited my sister in Downers Grove, Ill. The flowering trees were in bloom. She insisted that what I call a tulip tree is really a magnolia. I have seen true magnolias in the South with waxy evergreen leaves and white flowers. They are usually large trees. The tree that I call a tulip tree has pink flowers with petals shaped like the cup of a tulip.
I moved to Michigan from New Jersey, and the folks there and here had the same question. M.B., Ludington, Mich.
The picture you enclosed (taken at Downers Grove) is of Magnolia soulangeana. Actually, you are both right. Your sister has a magnolia.
The Southern evergreen trees with white blooms, which you mention having seen in the South, are also magnolias.
Tulip tree is also in the magnolia (Magnoliaceae) family. It is called Liriodenderon tulipifera and has the pink flowers shaped like tulips.
Magnolia soulangeana (also called saucer magnolia) has somewhat tulip-shaped blooms that are rosy purple on the outside and white on the inside.
Soulange magnolia and evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) have large oval leaves, while Liriodendron (tulip tree) has a four-lobed broad leaf, which has a ``cut off'' end with a notch between the two end lobes. It looks almost like a chopped-off mitten.