Nyssa aquatica
Common Name: tupelo gum
Type: Tree
Family: Cornaceae
Native Range: Southeastern United States
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 50.00 to 80.00 feet
Spread: 25.00 to 50.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Good Fall

Culture

Easily grown in medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, acidic soils. Tolerates poorly-drained soils and can grow in standing water.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Nyssa aquatica, commonly called tupelo gum or water tupelo, is a large aquatic tree that is native to floodplains and swamps from Florida to Texas north to Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia. It is often seen growing in standing water in the lower Mississippi Valley and southeastern U.S. coastal areas, either in pure stands or in combination with bald cypress, water oaks and swamp cottonwoods. In Missouri, it is found only in the far southeastern corner of the State in Bootheel swamps and further west in several sinkhole ponds in the Ozarks (Steyermark). It grows to 80’ (less frequently to 100') tall and features a swollen base (like bald cypress), upward tapering trunk and rounded spreading crown. Trees are typically symmetrical in youth but more irregular with age. Large, glossy, oblong to obovate, dark green leaves (4-8" long) usually have smooth edges (but sometimes sparse marginal teeth) and usually are finely downy (but sometimes glabrous) underneath. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Trees are primarily dioecious (male and female flowers on separate trees), but sometimes a few perfect flowers appear on the same tree. Greenish-white flowers (male in clusters and female solitary) bloom in spring. Dark purple fruit (drupes to 1" long) mature in fall. Trees may not flower and fruit until reaching the age of 30 years. Bees love the flowers of tupelo gum (tupelo honey is sold throughout the South). Wood is used for crates, broom handles and floors. Tupelo gum is similar to black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) except its leaves and fruits are larger.

Genus name comes from Nysa or Nyssa, one of the water nymphs.

Specific epithet means water in reference to areas where the trees frequently grow.

The common name of tupelo is from a Creek Indian word meaning swamp tree.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Tupelo gum is usually not grown as an ornamental landscape tree. It will grow in moist sites with some standing water.