Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
CommentsBlack Tupelo is showiest during the autumn when its leaves assume brilliant colors and some of its fruit is still hanging on the tree. Other common names of this tree are Black Gum and Sour Gum. A variety of Black Tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica biflora (Swamp Tupelo), is very similar to the typical variety that is described here. Swamp Tupelo differs by having smaller leaves (less than 2½" long) that are more oblong in shape. The seeds of its fruits are more deeply grooved than those of Black Tupelo. Swamp Tupelo is sometimes treated as a distinct species, Nyssa biflora. It is often found in swamps and its distribution is more southern. In Illinois, Swamp Tupelo is restricted to the southern tip of the state, where it is rare. Another species, Nyssa aquatica (Water Tupelo), prefers swamps with standing water and areas along major rivers that are frequently flooded. It is a tall tree (up to 100') with a long straight trunk that is swollen at the base; Water Tupelo is a frequent associate of Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum). This tree is also restricted to southern Illinois. It differs from Black Tupelo by having larger fruits (up to 1" long) that are borne individually, rather than in sessile clusters. It also has longer petioles. Sometimes, trees in this genus are assigned to the Dogwood family (Cornaceae).