Any of about seven species of trees that make up the genus Nyssa in the sour gum family (Nyssaceae). Five are found in moist or swampy areas of eastern North America, one in eastern Asia, and one in western Malaysia. They all have horizontal or hanging branches, broad leaves, and male and female flowers on different plants. North American species bear greenish-white flowers and small bluish-black or purple berries. The most widespread North American species is the black gum. Tupelo wood, most of which comes from the water tupelo (N. aquatica), is pale yellow to light brown, fine-textured, and strong. It is used for crates and boxes, flooring, wooden utensils, and veneers.
Learn more about tupelo with a free trial on Britannica.com.
The tupelos, or pepperidge tree, genus Nyssa, are a small genus of about 9 to 11 species of trees with alternate, simple leaves. Most are highly tolerant of wet soils and flooding, some needing to grow in such environments. Five of the species are native to eastern North America from the extreme south of Canada south to eastern Mexico; the others to east and south Asia from China south to Malaysia and west to the Himalaya. A related genus, Davidia, the Dove tree, occurs in China.
Tupelos are valued honey plants in southeastern and Gulf Coast states, producing a very light, mild-tasting honey. In northern Florida, beekeepers keep beehives along the river swamps on platforms or floats during tupelo bloom to produce certified tupelo honey, which commands a high price on the market because of its flavor; monofloral honey made from the nectar of the Ogeechee Tupelo has such a high ratio of fructose to glucose that it does not crystallize.
The Apalachicola River in the Florida Panhandle is the center for tupelo honey. The honey is produced wherever tupelo trees (three species) bloom in southeastern USA, but the purest and most expensive version (which is certified by pollen analysis) is produced in this valley. In a good harvest year, the tupelo honey crop produced by a group of specialized Florida beekeepers approaches US$1,000,000.
Tupelo wood is used extensively by artistic woodcarvers, especially for carving ducks and other wildfowl. In commerce, it is used for shipping containers and interior parts of furniture, and is used extensively in the veneer and panel industry for crossbanding, plywood cores, and backs. The wood can be readily pulped and is used for high-grade book and magazine papers. In the past, the hollow trunks were used for bee gums to hold beehives.
Tupelo trees are also popular ornamental trees for their spectacular red fall color.