Black Tupelo

Nyssa sylvatica


Other Names:
Black Gum, Sour-gum, Pepperidge, Beetlebung

Black Tupelo is a native tree found throughout Virginia. Black Tupelos are capable of living more than 650 years, and they are the longest living non-clonal flowering plant in eastern North America. The limbs often deteriorate early, and the decayed holes are used by squirrels, raccoons, and opossums, as well as by honeybees. Black Tupelos are an important food source for many resident and migrating birds in the fall. The leaves change color early, and birds are attracted to the available fruit, which ripens before many other fall fruits. The wood is very durable, but difficult to split. One of the wood's many uses was to make a mallet called a beetle to hammer bungs (stoppers) into barrels. The tree is a major source of wild honey, and "Tupelo Honey" was the title song for a hit album by the Irish singer Van Morrison in 1971.

Identification Tools

Illinois Wildflowers Missouri Botanical Garden Go Botany


North America Virginia

Black Tupelo tree
Small Black Tupelo on the Ridge Path

Black Tupelo branches
Branches of a Black Tupelo on the Ridge Path

Black Tupelo branches
Black Tupelo leaves, some of which have galls (the little bumps)

Black Tupelo branches
Black Tupelo leaves

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