Nyssa aquatica

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Nyssa aquatica
Nyssa aquatica.jpg
A stand of Nyssa aquatica (water tupelo)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Cornales
Family: Cornaceae (Nyssaceae)
Genus: Nyssa
Species: N. aquatica
Binomial name
Nyssa aquatica
Nyssa aquatica map.png
Natural range.

Nyssa aquatica, commonly called the water tupelo,[1] cottongum,[2] wild olive,[2] large tupelo,[2] sourgum,[citation needed] tupelo-gum,[1] or water-gum,[1] is a large, long-lived tree in the tupelo genus (Nyssa) that grows in swamps and floodplains in the Southeastern United States.[3]

Nyssa aquatica trunks have a swollen base that tapers up to a long, clear bole, and its root system is periodically under water.[3] Water tupelo trees often occurs in pure stands.


Nyssa aquatica's genus name (Nyssa) refers to a Greek water nymph;[4] the species epithet aquatica, meaning ‘aquatic’, refers to its swamp and wetland habitat.

One of the species' common names, tupelo, is of Native American origin, coming from the Creek words ito ‘tree’ and opilwa ‘swamp’; it was in use by the mid-18th century[5]


A large mature tree can produce commercial timber used for furniture and crates. The swollen base of the Nyssa aquatica is the source of a favored wood of wood carvers.

Many kinds of wildlife eat the fruit, and it is a favored honey tree.[3]

Swollen trunk base, in swamp habitat
Nyssa aquatica foliage


  1. ^ a b c "ARS Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) - species account Nyssa aquatica". 
  2. ^ a b c Bailey, L.H.; Bailey, E.Z.; the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium (1976). Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-02-505470-7. 
  3. ^ a b c Johnson, R. L. (1990). "Nyssa sylvatica". In Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H. Hardwoods. Silvics of North America. Washington, D.C.: United States Forest Service (USFS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 2 – via Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry (www.na.fs.fed.us). 
  4. ^ Werthner, William B. (1935). Some American Trees: An intimate study of native Ohio trees. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. xviii + 398 pp. 
  5. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition. 

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