Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Tropical Forests to Twelfth Century >> Tupelo


nyssa, trees, wood and leaves

TUPELO, one of the several American trees of the genus Nyssa, family Cornacece. Nyssa is found also in Eastern Asia. There are swamp-loving trees, with alternate, entire, or nearly entire leaves, and regular, small, greenish flowers in capitate clusters, the fertile blossoms sometimes solitary, on slender axillary stalks, and appearing with the foliage. The drupe is more or less oval, with a compressed stone. Nyssa sylvatica is the sour gum, or pepperidge, growing farther north than the other species, and more apt to he found away from water, and made conspicuous in autumn by the scarlet of its foliage and by the dark-blue fruits, which arc a valuable food for migrating robins. When leafless it is still noticeable, for the pic turesque growth of its limbs, sometimes in round heads, often horizontal, as if the many knotty branches lay in strata. The bark is rough and gray. The wood is of a light color, but with a twisted grain, which makes it diffi cult to work. This unwillingness to split, how ever, makes it desirable for beetle-heads, ox yokes, hubs of wheels, bowls, etc. Tupelo is durable when completely immersed in water, especially if salt, and is, therefore, of value for ships' keels; but it will not stand alternation of moisture and dryness. The southern moun

taineers value it for small pieces of the stem, chewed into brushes with which they may dip up snuff. In consequence of its erratic growth and fibre, sour-gum trees were debarred as evidence in boundary disputes, in cases where some time had elapsed after blazing trees, as shown by the condition of the scar. Nyssa ogeche, called the Ogeechee lime, from the stream of that name, which is said to be about its northern limit, is an inhabitant of southern river-swamps liable to inundations. Its young branches have a silvery gray back, and the short petioled oval leaves are whitish pubescent beneath, when young, and are about six inches long. It becomes a large tree of handsome but somewhat peculiar habit. The fruit is of the size and shape of an olive (which caused the French in Mississippi to call this tupelo °the olive), but is scarlet, and of an agreeable acid flavor. It is preserved in sugar. The wood is of little account, being soft, and the roots of one variety are so light that buoys for fishermen's nets were made out of them. Nyssa aquatica is the large tupelo, or °cotton") gum, so called because tomentose in all its more youthful parts.