Swamp Tupelo Tree



Botanical Name:  Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora

Common Name:  Swamp Tupelo, Swamp Black Gum

Description:  Yet another gorgeous native tree that should be in your garden if you have the room. Have you ever heard of Black Tupelo Honey?? Well, guess which trees’ flowers the bees use to make that honey?? Yep, the Swamp Tupelo and the Black Tupelo. I’ll have the Black Tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica, in stock soon.

Swamp tupelo is best adapted to wet, acid bottomlands. However, it can also grow on drier sites with rich acid soils. Its glossy green leaves and beautiful fall foliage make it a popular landscaping tree. Give it sun to part sun, and it’ll grow to 60-80′ tall x 40′ wide. It has a slow to medium growth rate: 12 – 24″ inches per year. This is a deciduous tree with absolutely stunning red fall colors before going dormant for the winter. This would be perfect for your rain garden, that low spot, boggy area, or on the banks of a swampy area or creek bed. I’m planting one on the back part of our property near the creek. That area floods a couple of times a year and stays pretty moist during the rest of the year.  The pretty white and green flowers bloom in the spring.

The bluish black fruit ripen in September and October. Swamp tupelo is an important species for the wildlife of North America. Wood ducks, wild turkeys, robins, foxes, and black bears depend on the dark blue fruit as a source of food in the fall. White-tailed deer and beavers savor the flavor of the leaves and twigs.

Besides their gorgeous fall color, one of the distinguishing characteristic is its swollen lower trunk, which expands at the base to twice or three times the size of the remaining trunk. These buttresses are an adaptation to stabilizing a tree growing in large pools of wet, loose soil or standing water. If yours is in a drier location, then it might not have the swollen lower trunk.

The Nyssa family is also highly sought after by bee keepers because of the special tasting and non-crystallizing honey they help produce. In the past, hollowed swamp tupelo trunks were used as bee hives and rabbit traps, called bee-gums and rabbit-gums.

Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray.

This plant in a 3-gallon container is 2-4′ tall.

Plant Lore:  One of its common names, swamp tupelo, is derived from the Native American Creek “ito opilwa,” meaning swamp tree. It is also in the Dogwood family.

Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 9

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