Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Taxonomy
Nyssa sylvatica Marsh.
NYSSACEAE (Tupelo Family)
EtymologyNyssa is named for Nysa, a Roman water nymph; sylvatica means growing in the woods, from the Latin: sylva = woods + atic = habitat.
Synonyms (Common Name)Black Gum, Sour Gum, Pepperidge, Beadle-bung
DescriptionOne of the earliest trees to change colors in autumn, tupelo is noted for its scarlet fall foliage. A deciduous, broad-leaved tree, it can grow to 125', but most tupelo trees in New England are of medium height (30-60'). The trunk is straight, 1-2' in diameter, with many short, horizontal branches that curve downward. Tupelo has deeply corrugated, dark brown to gray (older trees) bark.
Wetland indicator statusFACW+
Plant Height30-60 feet
LeavesDeciduous, alternate, simple, almost always entire (rarely with a few teeth), 3-6" long; elliptical to obovate with abrupt, pointed tip; dark green, glossy, somewhat leathery; sprays of 3-6 leaves at end of twigs; scarlet in autumn.
Flower/InflorescenceMale and female flowers on different trees; small, inconspicuous, greenish.
Flowering PeriodMay-June
FruitBerry-like fruit, small (1/2"), round to oval, blue-black, bitter; borne on long stalk singly or in 2-3's.
Fruiting PeriodAugust-October.
HabitatMoist woods, wooded swamps, along pond and stream margins; less common at edges of fens and bogs.
RangeMaine to Wisconsin; south to Florida and Texas; along coastal plain from Delaware to Louisiana.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett