I was so pleased to see tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera) planted at the new Cooper Square Hotel building on 3rd Avenue at 6th Street.
Tuliptrees are rare in Manhattan. To be honest, I've only encountered them in Central Park, where there is a lovely stand near Turtle Pond. In the Bronx, there's a community of tuliptrees near the Bronx Zoo's World of Birds building.
In some ways, the rarity of tuliptrees makes sense. They are narrow-canopied trees and wouldn't provide a wealth of shade on a street. And while the tulip-shaped, salmon-colored flowers (which bloom in summer) are lovely, they can also become a litter problem.
Alternatively, this narrow shape lends itself very well for the Cooper Union site, where you have a small courtyard set next to tall buildings.
And, like the World of Birds building, the staircase next to the tree provides people the opportunity to get close to the canopy and appreciate the flowers when the tree is in bloom, as you can barely make them out from the ground below.
Personally, I think Liriodendron is a slam-dunk to identify. The fastigiate form and the stripey bark are reliable identifiers, as is the mature habit. The habit always reminds me of a person who has their shoulders raised, sort of like the way you would look if you were saying, 'Well, what do you expect me to do??'
...That may be a stretch. I know.
Finally, the most obvious of identifying characteristics is the leaves. The broad leaves have four lobes which end in rounded points. The margins are entire.
To me, the leaf looks just like Hello Kitty.
It does, right?
Once, last summer, I described the leaves as Hello Kitty-shaped to my mother. On the following Valentine's Day, I received a Valentine from her with Hello Kitty on it. Written right next to Kitty's face, my mother had written "Tuliptree!"