Overview

Brief Summary

Cornaceae Dogwood family

    R. L. Johnson

    Water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), also called cottongum,  sourgum, swamp tupelo, tupelo-gum, and water-gum, is a large,  long-lived tree that grows in southern swamps and flood plains  where its root system is periodically under water. It has a  swollen base that tapers to a long, clear bole and often occurs  in pure stands. A good mature tree will produce commercial timber  used for furniture and crates. Many kinds of wildlife eat the  fruits and it is a favored honey tree.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Water tupelo grows throughout the Coastal Plain from southeastern  Virginia to southern Georgia, and from northwestern Florida along  the Gulf of Mexico to southeastern Texas. It extends up the  Mississippi River Valley as far north as the southern tip of  Illinois.

   
  -The native range of water tupelo.


  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Ecology

Habitat

Soils and Topography

Water tupelo grows in low, wet flats or sloughs and in deep  swamps. Some of the better sites are in the sloughs and swamps  along Coastal Plain rivers of the Southeast, such as the Roanoke  and Santee, and in the large swamps of southwestern Louisiana and  southeastern Texas. On some sites water may reach a depth of 6 m  (20 ft) during rainy seasons and may remain as high as 4 m (13  ft) for long periods (21). Surface water may disappear from water  tupelo areas in midsummer or fall, but on better sites soil  moisture remains at or near saturation level throughout most of  the growing season.

    Soils that commonly support water tupelo range from mucks and  clays to silts and sands and are in the orders Alfisols,  Entisols, Histosols, and Inceptisols. Most are moderately to  strongly acidic; subsoil frequently is rather pervious. Site  index of water tupelo for several Midsouth soils ranges from 21  to 27 m (70 to 90 ft) at 50 years (4).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Climate

Annual rainfall throughout the range of water tupelo averages 1320  mm (52 in). Approximately 530 mm (21 in) of rain falls during the  primary growing season, April through August. Summer months are  normally much drier in the Midsouth (22).

    Average summer temperature within the range of water tupelo is 27°  C (81° F); average winter temperature is 7° C (45°  F). Temperature extremes are 46° to -29° C (115°  to -20° F). An average of 231 frost-free days occur annually  over its range.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Associations

Associated Forest Cover

Water tupelo is a major component of the forest cover types Water  Tupelo-Swamp Tupelo (Society of American Foresters Type 103) and  Baldcypress-Tupelo (Type 102) (8). In stands containing  baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) and water tupelo,  baldcypress is usually predominant. In sloughs and moving water,  water tupelo usually occupies the deeper parts and baldcypress  the margins and more shallow parts. In deep, stagnant water the  two species occupy much the same depths (19).

    In several other forest cover types water tupelo may be a minor  associate: Longleaf Pine-Slash Pine (Type 83), Slash Pine (Type  84), Slash Pine-Hardwood (Type 85), and Baldcypress (Type 101).

    Species associated with water tupelo throughout its range are  black willow (Salix nigra), swamp cottonwood (Populus  heterophylla), red maple (Acer rubrum), waterlocust  (Gleditsia aquatica), overcup oak (Quercus lyrata),  water oak (Q. nigra), water hickory (Carya  aquatica), green and pumpkin ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica  and F. profunda), and sweetgum (Liquidambar  styraciflua). Swamp tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora),  pondcypress (Taxodium distichum var. nutans),  and redbay (Persea borbonia) are common associates in  the Southeast.

    Small tree and shrub associates of water tupelo include  swamp-privet (Forestiera acuminata), common buttonbush  (Cephalanthus occidentalis), waterelm (Planera  aquatica), sweetbay (Magnolia uirginiana), Carolina  ash (F. caroliniana), poison-sumac (Toxicodendron  vernix), southern bayberry (Myrica cerifera), and  dahoon (Ilex cassine).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

Fire is a major enemy of water tupelo. It  scorches the thin bark, allowing entrance of rot-causing fungi.  The forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria) is a  serious enemy in some years and locations. More than 202,350 ha  (500,000 acres) of trees along the gulf coast from Louisiana  through Alabama have been defoliated by this insect in a single  year (26). Trees annually defoliated seldom die but may have 30  percent or less of the annual diameter growth of unattacked  trees.

    A foliar disease, Mycosphaerella nyssaecola, has caused  premature defoliation, but impact has been negligible.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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General Ecology

Reaction to Competition

Water tupelo is classed as  intolerant of shade. It will survive codominant but not  overtopping competition. Water tupelo develops in pure, very  dense, second-growth stands and has a tendency to stagnate.  Unless stagnation is prolonged, it responds to thinning .

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Rooting Habit

Water tupelo commonly grows in saturated  soils where its shallow root system is characterized by  morphological and physiological adaptations that are essential to  survival and growth (table 1).

   

    Table 1- Root characteristics of swamp tupelo  and water tupelo as affected by drainage (13)      Root characteristics  Roots well  aerated  Roots  flooded        Morpology  Small diameter  and fiborous except at the apex  Succulent with  very little branching    Epidermis   Highly  suberized  Little or not  suberization    Endodermis  Highly  organized, with Casparian strips  Poorly  organized, Casparian strips not evident    Adventitious water root  None  Prolific just  below water line¹    Intercellular space in  cortex  Abundant  Abundant    Oxides-
  rhizospheres in anaerobic conditions  No  Yes    ¹May  be absent on water tupelo under many types of flooding.       

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Vegetative Reproduction

Water tupelo is a prolific stump  sprouter. Stumps of cut seedlings 15 cm (6 in) above ground level  may be better sprouters than those 1 cm (0.5 in) in height.  Sprouts develop adventitiously from the higher stumps and from  suppressed buds on lower stumps (14). Survival and development of  sprouts from stumps of larger trees are not always satisfactory,  and it may be that the occurrence and persistence of stump   sprouts are related to timing and duration of flooding. In South  Carolina, trees of sprout origin grew as well as seedlings over a  30-year period (16), but in southern Louisiana few stump sprouts  survived beyond 6 years (20).

    There are no practical techniques for reproducing water tupelo  through cuttings or layering.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seedling Development

Germination is epigeal. Seeds do not  germinate until water recedes, which may be midway to late in the  growing season (29). Partially shaded, wet, poorly-drained soils  provide the best seedbed. Seeds buried I to 3 cm (0.5 to 1 in)  deep in the soil have a better chance to germinate and establish  seedlings than seeds on the soil surface. Seedling survival and  development are best in full sunlight and in soil with a pH below  7.0 (25). Seedling development is better in saturated than in  well-drained soil, in moving and aerated rather than stagnant  water, and in shallow rather than deep water (6,7,11,17).  Provided their tops are above water, seedlings can generally  survive continuous flooding even if it persists throughout the  growing season. Water tupelo is able to survive where it is too  wet for most other species because of anatomical and  physiological adaptations such as roots that allow for oxidation  of the rhizosphere and controlled anaerobic respiration (12,18).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seed Production and Dissemination

Forest trees initiate  seed production in about 30 years or when they are about 20 cm (8  in) in d.b.h. In a South Carolina study, however, viable seeds  were produced by 2-year-old stump sprouts (27). Large trees  normally produce good to excellent crops each year. Seeds are  dispersed mainly by water. As long as the exocarp is intact, the  fruit will float. Seeds submerged continuously in water may  remain viable for at least 14 months (1).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Flowering and Fruiting

Water tupelo is  polygamo-dioecious. The minute, greenish-white flowers appear  before or with the leaves in March or April. Pollen is  disseminated by wind and probably by bees. Fruits are oblong  drupes about 1 to 4 cm (0.5 to 1.5 in) long, with a thick epicarp  and fleshy mesocarp. When mature, September through December of  the first year, they are dark purple with conspicuous pale dots.  Each fruit contains a boney, ribbed, one-seeded stone. Stones  range in color from white to dark brown or gray and some are  pinkish white. There are about 990 cleaned seeds per kilogram  (2.2 lbs) (30).

    Seeds may be sown in fall in the nursery or may be stratified over  winter and sown in the spring. For stratifying, seeds are kept in  moist sand or plastic bags at 2° to 4° C (35° to  40° F) (30). Up to 30 months storage does not reduce  viability of seeds that have a moisture content of 20 percent or  less and are kept in polyethylene bags at a temperature of about  3° C (38° F) (3).

    Nursery-sown seeds may be drilled 13 to 25 mm (0.5 to 1 in) deep  at the rate of 50/m (15/ft) of row, or they may be broadcast and  rolled into the soil. A seedbed density of 110 to 165 seedlings/m²  (10 to 15 seedlings/ft²) is recommended. From 25 to 37 mm (I  to 1.5 in) of sawdust mulch is recommended for broadcast seeds.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Growth

Growth and Yield

Growing season flooding that is just  short of continuous may provide near-optimum soil moisture for  growth of water tupelo (2). Any drastic change in normal water  levels can decrease growth. On a good site in South Carolina,  30-year-old trees of sprout and seed origin averaged about 23 m  (75 ft) tall and 33 cm (13 in) in diameter (16). (Note:  determination of tree age may be difficult because the species is  known to have false rings.) With an abundance of sunlight, trees  growing on a good site for 50 to 75 years may reach 51 to 66 cm  (20 to 26 in) in diameter above the butt swell, contain from 2 to  3.5 4.9-m (16 ft) logs, and begin development of heartwood (2).

    In poorly drained swamps in the southeastern United States,  average annual production of water tupelo stands was found to be  between 6.3 and 7.0 m³/ha (90 and 100 ft³/acre).  Ten-year average diameter growth for trees free to grow in  unmanaged stands on an average site is about 8 cm (3 in) (28).  Growth and Yield were tabulated at 10-year intervals for  unmanaged stands in the Atchafalaya Basin of southern Louisiana  as follows (9):

   

    Age  Average  D.b.h.  Height  Total  merchantable volume (peeled wood)        yr  cm  m  m³/ha    30  16.8  14  156    40  24.1  17  243    50  42.2  25  331      in  ft  ft³/acre    30  6.6  46  2,225    40  9.5  56  3,475    50  16.6  81  4,725        Under management, a pure even-aged stand carried to 107 cm (42 in)  in diameter above the bottleneck is estimated to have an  accumulative total yield of 676 m³/ha (48,282 mbf/acre,  Doyle log rule) in logs and 441 m/ha (70 cords/acre). These  yields are based on an assumed cutting cycle of from 8 to 15  years (28).

    Basal areas between 57 and 69 m²/ha (250 and 300 ft²/acre)  are not uncommon in pure unmanaged second-growth stands. For a  less dense water tupelo stand in Florida, the following volumes  were recorded (24):

   

    Age  Average  diameter above bottleneck  Total  merchentable volume (outside bark)  Basal  area        yr  cm  m³/ha  m²/ha    60  31.8  355  38.6    70  34.8  429  44.5      in  ft³/acre  ft²/acre    60  12.5  5,077  168    70  13.7  6,133  194        Growth and yield of water tupelo in plantations are generally  unknown. One small 17-year-old planting at a 1.7 by 1.7 m (5.5 by  5.5 ft) spacing on Falaya silt loam had 89 percent survival. The  trees that grew best averaged 13.2 cm (5.2 in) in d.b.h. and were  14.9 m (49 ft) tall (5).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

There is considerable variation in specific gravity and fiber  length among stands, between trees within a stand, and within  individual trees. Depending on seed source, seedlings grown under  similar water regimes have different rates of development (15).

    No racial variations or hybrids have been recognized for  forest-grown water tupelo.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Special Uses

Since water tupelo is one of the few species that can survive  extended periods of inundation, it is favored for planting in  very wet microsites, around buildings, in parks, and elsewhere.  It is also an important wildlife species. The fruit is consumed  by wood ducks, several other kinds of birds, and by squirrels,  raccoons, and deer (10). Flowers have some value as a source of  tupelo honey. Deer feed on foliage, twigs, and stump sprouts.

    Water tupelo wood has fine, uniform texture and interlocked grain.  When dried properly, the lumber is used for boxes, pallets,  crates, baskets, and furniture. Buttresses of trees growing in  flooded areas contain wood that is much lighter in weight than  that from upper portions of the same trees. The butt portion is  probably best suited for pulping products

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Wikipedia

Nyssa aquatica

Nyssa aquatica, commonly called the water tupelo,[1] cottongum,[2] wild olive,[2] large tupelo,[2] sourgum,[citation needed] tupelo-gum,[1] or water-gum,[1] is a large, long-lived tree in the tupelo genus (Nyssa) that grows in swamps and floodplains in the Southeastern United States.[3]

Nyssa aquatica trunks have a swollen base that tapers up to a long, clear bole, and its root system is periodically under water.[3] Water tupelo trees often occurs in pure stands.

Nyssa aquatica foliage.

Names[edit]

Nyssa aquatica's genus name (Nyssa) refers to a Greek water nymph;[4] the species epithet aquatica, meaning ‘aquatic’, refers to its swamp and wetland habitat.

One of the species' common names, tupelo, is of Native American origin, coming from the Creek words ito ‘tree’ and opilwa ‘swamp’; it was in use by the mid-18th century[5]

Swollen trunk base, in swamp habitat.

Uses[edit]

A large mature tree can produce commercial timber used for furniture and crates. The swollen base of the Nyssa aquatica is the source of a favored wood of wood carvers.

Many kinds of wildlife eat the fruit, and it is a favored honey tree.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "ARS Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) - species account Nyssa aquatica". 
  2. ^ a b c Bailey, L.H.; Bailey, E.Z.; the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium (1976). Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-02-505470-7. 
  3. ^ a b c U.S. Forest Service silvics manual - Nyssa aquatica treatment
  4. ^ Werthner, William B. (1935). Some American Trees: An intimate study of native Ohio trees. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. xviii + 398 pp. 
  5. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition. 
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