Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Southern Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Nyssa aquatica L.
- Family: Nyssa (Nyssaceae)
- Flowering: April-May
- Field Marks: Some of the large, alternate leaves have an occasional tooth along the otherwise toothless margins. The purple, elongated, fleshy fruits usually have pale speckles.
- Habitat: Swamps, wet woods, and riparian habitats.
- Habit: Tree up to 100 feet tall, with trunk diameter up to 4 feet; crown spreading; trunk swollen
at the base becoming 10 to 12 feet in diameter.
- Bark: Light or dark gray, breaking up into thin scales.
- Twigs: Stout, more or less angular, gray or brown, smooth; with partitioned pith.
- Leaves: Alternate, simple, ovate to oblong, pointed at the tip, rounded or slightly heart-shaped
at the base, with an occasional coarse tooth or toothless, smooth or somewhat hairy on the upper
surface, paler and soft-hairy on the lower surface, up to 8 inches long and up to 4 inches wide, on
hairy stalks up to 3 inches long.
- Flowers: Male and female borne on separate trees, appearing as the leaves begin to unfold,
greenish, small, the male in spherical clusters, the female solitary on long stalks.
- Sepals: 5, tiny, green, united below.
- Petals: Usually none.
- Stamens: 5-15.
- Pistils: Ovary inferior.
- Fruits: Drupes oblong, dark purple with pale speckles, bitter, up to 1 1/2 inches long, 1-seeded;
seed flattened and longitudinally ridged.
- Notes: The wood of water tupelo is used for rough lumber, veneer core stock, woodenware, and
paper pulp. Trees with swollen bases occur in swamps or regularly flooded areas.
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