I Am the Largest!
The largest recorded black tupelo tree is 144 feet tall and has a crown spread of 95 feet.
The binomial name of black tupelo is Nyssa sylvatica
. The word "Nyssa
" refers to a water nymph in Greek, whereas "tupelo" is of an American origin. It comes from the Creek words ito 'tree' and opilwa 'swamp'. Tupelo or nyssa is a small genus consisting of 9 - 11 species. Five species out of these are native to North America, while the others are found in eastern and southeastern Asia. Black tupelo, also called black gum tree, pepperidge tree, or simply tupelo is native to North America from New England to southern Ontario, to central Florida, eastern Texas, and Mexico.
Classification• Kingdom - Plantae• Order - Cornales• Family - Cornaceae (or Nyssaceae)• Genus - Nyssa• Species - N. sylvatica
Black tupelo grows up to 20 - 25 meters (66 - 82 ft) tall and has a trunk diameter of 50 - 100 cm. The branches usually grow at right angles from the trunk. When the plant is young, it has a pyramidal shape, and it becomes more oval as the tree grows.
Bark: It has a straight trunk, and the bark is very scaly and gray. The bark of a mature tree is very coarse and resembles the hide of an alligator.
Leaves: Leaves are green and can be oval, elliptical, or obovate. The top surface is glossy, and a variety of sizes and shapes are found in leaves. The foliage changes color in autumn, and turns a bright red or scarlet.
Flower: Flowers are greenish white and are found in clusters at the top of the stalk. The plants are dioecious, (male and female flowers on separate trees), as well as polygamo-dioecious (male and female flowers on the same tree).
Fruits: Fruits are ovoid, bluish-black, and have a white coating. Clusters of three fruits are usually found. The fruit is edible, but very sour. It is used in preserves and pies.
Wood: The wood is pale yellow-colored, very heavy, strong, and hard.
Black tupelo grows on various uplands and in alluvial stream bottoms from southwestern Maine and New York, to extreme southern Ontario, central Michigan, Illinois, and central Missouri, south to southern Florida, eastern Texas, and eastern Oklahoma.
It grows well in well-drained, textured, and acidic soils. Although it grows best in sun, it can tolerate shade as well.
It requires moderate water and cannot stand still water.
Its habitat varies from rocky upland woodlands, wooded slopes, upland sand flats, floodplain woodlands, higher ground and edges of swamps, to edges of shaded seeps and springs.
The decayed holes in the tree make excellent dens for squirrels, raccoons, Virginia opossums, as well as nesting sites for honeybees.
American Robin, Swainson's Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, European Starling, Scarlet Tanager, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, and American Crow are all the residing and migratory birds, who eat the fruits of the black tupelo tree.
Deer are extremely fond of its leaves.
Beavers use the wood of the tree for construction, as well as a source of food, if it grows near water bodies.
Its colorful and bright foliage makes it very popular as an ornamental tree.
It is a major source of wild honey in many areas.
The wood is used for mauls, pulleys, wheel hubs, agricultural rollers, bowls, paving blocks, pallets, rough floors, pulpwood, and firewood.
Other Interesting Facts
The black tupelo tree is the longest living non-clonal flowering plant in Eastern North America. It can live for over 650 years.
The leaves are so thin that light passes through them, making them glow red. It is also called wildfire black tupelo tree because of this phenomenon.
The only problem with this tree is that Nyssa sylvatica forms a large deep taproot when young, making transplanting difficult. It is fairly uncommon in cultivation and the nursery trade due to this reason.
A very attractive tree, growing it in your garden will draw in lots of birds and small mammals as well. It is fairly pest-free and easy to care for.