The Black Tupelo

Left: black tulepo, Right: illustration of black tulepo leaves

The black tupelo, or black gum, is a tree of great importance in these woodlands. Though it is not the dominant tree type in this oak/pine woodland, its presence still provides numerous benefits to wildlife.

As one of the oldest species of tree in this area, capable of living well over 650 years, each tree can have a large and lengthy impact on its surroundings. These trees are identifiable by their simple oblong leaves about 5 inches long and light brown deeply furrowed bark. The black tupelo is one of the first trees to start changing colors in the fall; scientists believe this early color change helps alert birds to their newly ripening fruit.

The small, ovoid, fleshy fruit is one of the first berries to ripen and provides an important food source to migrating birds and overwintering residents. Its flowers are an important source of nectar and pollen for honey making bees.

The especially hard wood of black tupelo has been used by humans for centuries to make tool handles, wheel hubs, paving blocks, and other specialty products.