A close look at tulip poplar flowers

Yesterday, I noticed that there was a nice tree with many flowers low enough next to the MSU Dairy Store. Normally these trees are so tall that you would need a ladder to see their flowers at the right direction, but I did not have my camera.

So this morning I went back to take a closer look and see if I can find a honey bee foraging there. I saw a bald faced hornet hovering around (probably trying to catch other insects), a milkweed bug, but no honey bees! There was so much nectar it was flowing on the sepal to the ground. I saw stains on the concrete and realized it was the nectar rain that did it! But with so much nectar, why no honey bees? My apiary at College and Jolly would be too far away (4.5 miles) but there was a feral colony in the Beal Botanic Garden (not sure if it survived or not). But I know some honey bees are foraging in the MSU campus because I saw a honey bee foraging on plum flowers about 2 months ago (I did not get that bee in my photos!). In fact, not a whole lot of other insects either… puzzling…

Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), a tree in the family of Magnoliaceae, is supposed to be a good source for honey production.

1. I took a picture of  a black locust tree also since I had to bring my camera. The bloom was near the end, with petals falling.

2. Beautiful flowers on the Tulip poplar

3. A closeup of petals to show the nectar (glistening drops).

4. Can you see the drop of nectar almost ready to flow down?

5. Closeup of a drop of nectar

6. Could not help but to see if it tastes sweet or not. Yes!

7. Nectar would flow from the petal to sepal and then to the concrete ground, forming these spots. I know it must be the nectar because the spots are only under the tree.

8. The only bug I caught, a milkweed bug.

Author: Zachary Huang

8 thoughts on “A close look at tulip poplar flowers

  1. Time to bottle that tulip nectar, Zach.

    probably do-able…I would rather do this than pollinating pears by hand…I can probably get 1 lb of honey a whole day :) :)

  2. Hi Zachary,
    We live just south of the MSU campus at College and Holt Roads. Recently we have seen a significant amount of bees near our house and in our honey locust tree. We only see them after sundown when it is dark.
    We have looked everywhere around our property and cannot find a hive or swarm.
    Can you tell us what might be happening and if there is anything we need to do. They are not appearing at all during the day. We are concerned because we have young grand children in our back yard often, but we don’t want to do anything to hurt the bees or interfere with nature.
    Thanks for your help.
    Len and Cathie Auriemma

    Len and Cathie,
    If you can take a digital photo of the “bees,” and email to me I might be able to help better. I suspect that these are not honey bees.

    Zachary (in Guangzhou, China)

    ****2010/06/24 at 19:32

    Thank you for your response. We will try to take a photo but not sure how it will turn out as they only come at night.

    What email address would we send them to?

    I hope we are not taking you away from family or vacation time. We can wait until you get back to MSU if necessary.

    Len and Cathie

    Please send to bees.msu@gmail.com. Zachary

  3. Absolutely beautiful posting….love the nectar drip from the leaves. That’s some amazing stuff. I bottle Tulip Poplar honey every year, right here from eastern NC. My bees round the nectars up from the wooded areas in the swamp land around my county residence. Some of the darkest, most robust honey you can get from around here _eastern NC_. The depth of flavor is amazing.

  4. I see all these posts date back to 2010. Have you seen bees on tulip trees since then. I ask because fellow apiasts cite their absence. Similarly, many have noted sporadic blooming of black locust. Here, at my residence, in York, Pa., bees have flocked to my tulip trees, locust (black not honey locust) and my Lindens annually.
    Can any of this regional scarcity of bees pollinating those trees be due to chem trails?

  5. I am a honeybee keeper. Most beekeepers in my area of Southern Indiana are noticing that their honey is unually dark this year. There is a thought that it’s tulip poplar honey.
    The Amish beekeepers say that every 5 yrs or so, the tulip poplar blossoms are extra heavy and produce distinctive tasting and looking honey.
    Just wondering if any truth to the 5 yr heavy blossoming idea?

  6. Late Sept honey will be darker because of goldenrod. Tulip poplar blooms during the summer (end of May till June). I also have not heard about nectar flow every 5 years.

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