Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meet the Black Tupelo - Nyssa sylvatica

The Black Tupelo -Nyssa sylvatica, is a large deciduous tree averaging between 30-60 feet in height, with a few recorded to reach heights of 100 feet. It is also commonly known as the Black Gum or the Sour Gum. The most remarkable feature of the Black Tupelo is the non-scissile grain of the wood, it is not only cross woven but inter-braided as well. The wood is almost impenetrable with an ax and can only be cut with a saw.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

The leaves are hard, glossy and green in color. In the Autumn the leaves change to either entirely or partially red in color. The foliage is considered to be dense, with the crown leaves growing near the ends of the laterals. The most identifiable feature of the Black Tupelo is the dark blue fruit which appear on long stalks with a single large stone on the inside. The flesh of the fruit is thin and oily, sour and bitter. The flowers appear in the early spring and fruits in the fall. The bark is a dark reddish black in color. The texture is thick and deeply furrowed in a rectangular pattern.  The male flowers are greenish in color, tiny in size with heads on long stalks at the base of the leaves, while the female flowers are in clusters of 2-6 appearing on separate trees.

Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org

The range begins from Maine to Northern Florida in the East and West to the Northern edges of Florida and West to Northern Michigan and down through Oklahoma and Texas. It is most common on the Coastal Plains of the Northern Atlantic state and Ohio Valley. It prefers wet soils, swamp and river edges but has also been known to thrive in upland areas as well.

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