Image credit: Friends of Foots Cray Meadows
To the west of Foots Cray Meadows – close to the car park entrance off Rectory Lane and to the right of the Friends of Foots Cray Meadows’ Information Centre – stands a tulip tree, below.
Such a plant, known as liriodendron tulipifera, is native to eastern North America, from southern New England westward to Michigan and south to Louisiana and Florida.
Sometimes reaching more than 150 feet in height, tulip trees were introduced to Britain in the 17th century – with its name deriving from its large delicate flowers resembling tulips. These are best seen around early June.
The large ornamental tree, sometimes called tulip poplar or yellow poplar, has four-lobed leaves. The trees usually last about 200 to 250 years but some may survive up to 300 years.
A study by Professor David Dilcher, of Indiana University Bloomington in the USA, revealed in September 2013 that the tulip tree line diverged from magnolias more than 100 million years ago.
In 1975, his team came across, in Kansas, fossil flowers and fruits resembling those of magnolias and tulip trees – and used advanced scanning technologies to study them.
Professor Dilcher said. "We discovered features of the fruits and seeds, not previously detailed, that were more similar to those of the tulip tree line of evolution than to the magnolias.
“Thus, the beautiful tulip tree has a lineage that extends back to the age of the dinosaurs. It has a long, independent history separate from the magnolias and should be recognized as its own flowering plant family.”
Credit: Friends of Foots Cray Meadows
Legend has it that, as Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve attempted to grasp spitefully at a branch of the Tree of Life but succeeded only in snatching the tip of a leaf from the tulip tree. This is allegedly the reason why the four-lobed leaves, seen in the picture above, have veins leading to a non-existent tip, not the norm with plants.