Plant DetailShow Menu

Nyssa aquatica is often confused with:
Ilex amelanchier Form
Nyssa biflora
Nyssa sylvatica Nyssa sylvatica
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Nyssa sylvatica Nyssa sylvatica
Pontederia cordata Pontederia cordata
Tilia americana Tilia americana
Nyssa aquatica has some common insect problems:
Forest Tent Caterpillar

Nyssa aquatica

Previously known as:

  • Nyssa uniflora
Phonetic Spelling
NY-suh a-KWA-tee-kuh
Description

Nyssa aquatica, or Water Tupelo, is a native, large, long-lived deciduous tree in the tupelo genus that inhabits deep river or coastal swamps in the Southeastern United States that are usually flooded most of the year. It has a swollen base, large hanging fruit, and brittle twigs that distinguish it from the Blackgum. Water Tupelo has a long, straight trunk, narrow, open crown of spreading branches, and large, shiny leaves. In a forested stand, the trunk is often long, but somewhat crooked, above its buttressed base. It is very symmetrical and pyramid-shaped in its early years but develops an irregular form with age. 

It grows well in medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade and prefers moist, acidic soils. It tolerates poorly-drained soils and can grow in standing water. A long taproot makes it difficult to transplant. It is rarely used in the home landscape. Often reaching heights of 100' with a trunk diameter of 3 to 4 feet, it is mostly dioecious and male plants are helpful to get a female fruit set. This plant has a beautiful yellow fall color.

Diseases, Insects, and Other Plant Problems:

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. This tree is heat tolerant.

Key to Nyssa

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#bees#sun#deciduous#large tree#native tree#honey bees#coastal#water plant#NC native#flood plains#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#honeybees#Coastal OBL#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Piedmont Mountains OBL#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#bees#sun#deciduous#large tree#native tree#honey bees#coastal#water plant#NC native#flood plains#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#honeybees#Coastal OBL#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Piedmont Mountains OBL#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Nyssa
    Species:
    aquatica
    Family:
    Nyssaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Wood is light, soft, close-grained but not strong. Often used for crates, broom handles, pulpwood, and floor veneers. The root is sometimes used for making floats.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Layering
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and southeastern United States
    Distribution:
    Southeastern US flood plains, North Carolina
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Special Value to Honey Bees (tupelo honey is sold throughout the South).
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edibility:
    The fruit can be eaten raw, often used in preserves.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 60 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 1 in. - 50 ft. 2 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Frequent Standing Water
    Moist
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Dark purple, oblong fruit (drupes to 1 inch long) mature in fall (September-October). Tough skins with a thin layer of acid flesh over the seed.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    Greenish-white flowers (male in clusters and female solitary) bloom in spring (April-May). Male and female borne on separate trees, appearing as the leaves begin to unfold. Trees may not flower and fruit until reaching the age of 30 years.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Large, glossy, oblong to obovate, dark green leaves (4 to 8 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide) usually have smooth edges (but sometimes one or more large teeth) and usually are finely downy (but sometimes glabrous) underneath.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Bark Description:
    The bark is dark brown or dark grey. It is finely fissured up and down the trunk, thin and scaly.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Fruit grow on slender drooping stalks 3 to 4 inches long.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Pond
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Water Garden
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heat