Black Gum, Bly Gum, Swamp Tupalo, Nyssa biflora

Nyssa biflora, known as swamp tupelo, or swamp black-gum, or according to Mr Jones, from Jones County, "Bly Gum" by old timers. It is a species of tupelo that lives in wetland habitats.

The swamp tupelo grows in humid warm climates. It not only tolerates flooding but actually thrives under those conditions. It is seldom found on sites that are not inundated much of the growing season. Swamp tupelo grows in headwater swamps, strands, ponds, river bottoms, bays, estuaries, and low coves. Normally it does not grow in the deeper parts of swamps or overflow river bottoms.

The type of water regime is more important to growth of swamp tupelo than the soil type. It grows best on sites where the soil is continuously saturated with very shallow moving water. Here in our woods, it occurs where seeps provide a small, steady flow of water (when we are not in a drought)

The swamp tupelo has tiny greenish-white flowers that appear in the spring with the leaves. Insects, primarily bees, are the major pollinating vector, but pollen is also spread by wind. The tree is an excellent nectar source for making honey!

Swamp tupelo normally develops a taproot and has a swollen base to the mean height of the growing season water level. Water roots, which develop under flooded conditions, help support the tree and capture nutrients. These specialized roots tolerate high carbon dioxide concentrations, oxidize the rhizosphere, and carry on anaerobic respiration. Thus, they are the key to the species ability to thrive under flooded conditions

It took a good while, I will not say how long, to find the mother tree to the young trees that slowly appeared in the seeps. Photo by K. Mulcahy

Young trees in the nursery. Photo by K. Mulcahy

Young trees in the woods. They appeared only after thinning the invasive Privet. Photo by K. Mulcahy

Sources:,, other authoritative resources and personal experience.