Nyssaceae
The Tupelo Family
 
 
    The tupelo family includes 3 genera and 10 species of plants that are widely distributed in the southeastern United States, the Malayan Archipelago, Mongolia, and the Himalayas.  3 species of the genus Nyssa are indigenous to Florida.
 
 

 Click on the links below for introductions to some of the trees of this family:
 
water tupelo
swamp tupelo
black gum
 
 
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Nyssa aquatica
water tupelo, tupelogum
 
 

Habit

    The water tupelo is a large tree, often more than 100 feet in height, 3-4 feet in diameter.  It has a strongly buttressed base, a tapering bole, and a narrow, oblong crown composed of small spreading branches.
 

Leaves

    Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  The leaves are 5-10 inches long, 2-4 inches wide, oval-shaped, and taper into an acute apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped or occasionally rounded.  Leaf margins are entire or sometimes scalloped-toothed.  Leaf surfaces are dark green and lustrous above, paler and somewhat pubescent below.  Leaf petioles are swollen at the base, stout, pubescent, and grooved, about 2 inches long.
 

Flowers
 
    The flowers of this tree are perfect and imperfect.
 

Fruit
 
    Fruit is an oblong, purple drupe, about 1 inch long, with thick skin and thin, bitter flesh.  They are on slender stalks, 3-4 inches long.  The pit is light brown, with many longitudinal, scaly ridges.
 

Twigs

    The twigs are stout, red or red-brown.  The pith is diaphragmed.
 

Bark

    The bark is thin, gray-brown or brown, with many longitudinal, scaly ridges.
 

Habitat

    The water tupelo grows in deep swamps and often in standing water.  It is usually mixed with cypress.  It is less common on deep, moist soil with elms, sycamore, red maple, and green ash.  It is found on the coastal plain from southern Virginia to central Florida; west through the Gulf states to Texas; north through Arkansas, western Tennessee, and Kentucky to southern Illinois.
 

Use

    This wood of this tree is commonly used in the manufacture of plywood and commercial veneers, boxboards, crossties, paper pulp, woodenware, handles, and planing-mill products.  The rootwood is sometimes used as a substitute for cork.
 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 

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Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora
swamp tupelo, blackgum
 
 

Habit

    The swamp tupelo is a moderately large tree, sometimes more than 100 feet in height, 3-4 feet in diameter.  It has a strongly buttressed base, a somewhat tapering bole, and a narrow, oblong crown.  The root system is spreading and commonly produces vigorous sprouts.
 

Leaves

    Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  The leaves are 2-5 inches long, 1-2 inches wide, narrow and elliptical-shaped, and taper into an acute apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped or rounded.  Leaf margins are entire or sometimes with a few coarse, scattered teeth.  Leaf surfaces are dark green and lustrous above, paler with silky hairs below.  Leaf petioles are 1 inch long and are remotely winged.
 

Flowers
 
    The flowers of this tree are perfect and imperfect.
 

Fruit
 
    Fruit is an ovoid, dark blue drupe, about 1/2 inch long.  The flesh is rather bitter.  The pits have prominent, longitudinal ridges or ribs, which alone can distinguish this species from the black tupelo.  
 

Twigs

    The twigs are moderately stout and reddish-brown.  The pith is white and diaphragmed.
 

Bark

    The bark is gray to light brown and blocky, having the appearance of alligator skin.
 

Habitat

    The swamp tupelo is common to wet habitats such as swamps.  It is found on throughout the southeastern coastal plain.
 

Use

    The wood of this tree is commonly used in the manufacture of plywood and commercial veneers, boxboards, crossties, paper pulp, woodenware, handles, and planing-mill products.
 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 

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Nyssa sylvatica var. sylvatica
blackgum, black tupelo
 
 

Habit

    The blackgum is a moderately large tree, sometimes more than 100 feet in height, 3-4 feet in diameter.  It has a strongly buttressed base, a somewhat tapering bole, and a narrow, oblong crown.  The root system is spreading and commonly produces vigorous sprouts.
 

Leaves

    Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  The leaves are 2-5 inches long, 1-3 inches wide, oval-shaped, and taper into an acute apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped or rounded.  Leaf margins are entire or sometimes with a few coarse, scattered teeth.  Leaf surfaces are dark green and lustrous above, paler with silky hairs below.  Leaf petioles are 1 inch long and are remotely winged.
 

Flowers
 
    The flowers of this tree are perfect and imperfect.
 

Fruit
 
    Fruit is an ovoid, dark blue drupe, about 1/2 inch long.  The flesh is rather bitter.  The pits have indistinct longitudinal ridges or ribs.  
 

Twigs

    The twigs are moderately stout and reddish-brown.  The pith is white and diaphragmed.
 

Bark

    The bark is gray to light brown and blocky, having the appearance of alligator skin.
 

Habitat

    The blackgum grows on a variety of sites.  It grows on moist, rich soil near swamps, in mixed, upland hardwood forests, and on lower mountain slopes.  It is never found in deep swamps or in lands subject to periodic inundation with water.  It is found from southern Maine to southeastern Wisconsin near Lake Michigan; south to central and western Florida in the east, and to eastern Texas in the west.
 

Use

    The wood of this tree is commonly used in the manufacture of plywood and commercial veneers, boxboards, crossties, paper pulp, woodenware, handles, and planing-mill products.
 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
More
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 

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