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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Water Tupelo

Water Tupelo

(Nyssa aquatica L.)

  Water tupelo also is known as tupelo gum. It inhabits only those deep river swamps or coastal swamps that usually are flooded during much of the year. The water tupelo's commonly enlarged or swollen base, its large, hanging fruit or "plum" and the brittleness of its twigs distinguish it from the blackgum.

Leaves of the water tupelo are oblong and long-pointed at the end, 5 to 7 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide. Leaves are entire, or they may have one or more large teeth. The dark purple, oblong fruit is about one inch long. The fruit has a tough skin and thin layer of flesh over the seed. It grows on slender, drooping stalks 3 to 4 inches long. The bark of the trunk is thin, dark brown and is furrowed up and down the trunk.

The water tupelo tree averages 80 to 100 feet in height and 3 to 4 feet in diameter. In a forest stand, water tupelo develops a long, but somewhat crooked, clean trunk above its buttressed base. The crown usually is narrow, oblong or pyramidal.

The wood is light, soft and close-grained but is not strong. It is used for furniture, veneer and pulpwood.
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