A different kind of tulip
Reminiscent of the spring blooming bulb, both the blooms and the leaves make the familiar tulip shape. These creamsicle colored blooms are real charmers and attract bees and ruby-throated hummingbirds when they open.
Looking strictly at the structure of the blooms you can see how this tree is a member of the Magnoliacae family. It is the largest tree in the Eastern forests, growing as tall as 80 feet or more. Daniel Boone used the wood for his 60' dugout canoe. George Washington said it was one of his all time favorite trees and planted them at Mount Vernon some of which are more than 140' tall now. These trees create a very tall canopy in our woods with the tallest trees void of lower branches making it difficult to see any insect activity on the leaves or blooms.
It is a wonderful tree for wildlife. White-tailed deer and rabbits browse the young trees. A host plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Spicebush butterfly as well as the Promethea and Tulip Tree moth. Migratory birds such as the Baltimore Orioles and Scarlet Tanagers feed in these trees while finches and hummingbirds seek out the flower's rich nectar. Seeds provide food for a variety of birds including finches, cardinals, and quail.
As the blooms are marooned so high up in the tree they are heavy with nectar, an adaptation developed to attract pollinators that don't normally forage so high up. After all there needs to be a reward for such a high altitude visit and these voluptuous blooms are the prize.