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Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Nyssa aquatica L.
Water tupelo, Blackgum, Sourgum
Synonym(s): Nyssa uniflora
USDA Symbol: nyaq2
USDA Native Status: L48 (N)
Large aqautic tree with swollen base, long, straight trunk, narrow, open crown of spreading branches, and large, shiny leaves. Water tupelo is a narrow-crowned, flood-tolerant, deciduous tree, 50-100 ft. tall, with a buttressed base. It is very symmetrical and pyramid-shaped in its early years, but develops an irregular form with age. Large, glossy, dark-green leaves turn yellow in fall. Fruit ripens to black.
This aquatic tree was named Nyssa after one of the ancient Greek water nymphs or goddesses of lakes and rivers. The name Tupelo is from Creek Indian words meaning swamp tree. The spongy wood of the roots has served locally as a substitute for cork in floats of fish nets.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf:
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Green
Bloom Time: Apr
, VA Native Distribution: FL
to e. TX,
n. to VA, TN, KY, IL
& MO Native Habitat:
Swamps; floodplain forests; lake & pond margins
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Wet, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Tupelo has a moderate growth rate and is recommended for pond landscaping. It can grow in standing water or moist, well-drained sites.
PropagationDescription: Sow fresh or stratified seed in a moist, muddy soil covered by one inch of firm soil. Seedlings benefit from partial shade.
Seed Collection: Collect seed in late summer or early fall. Remove pulp and air-dry for one to two days. Store in moist sand at 48-51 degrees for up to one year.
Seed Treatment: Stratify for 30-60 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
From the National Organizations Directory
According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:
Mt. Cuba Center
- Hockessin, DE
Record Last Modified: 2009-02-18
Research By: TWC Staff