Tupelo, a common name for a genus of trees native to North America and Asia. The genus is made up of six species, two of which—the water tupelo and black tupelo—are planted as ornamentals. Both the water tupelo and the black tupelo are sometimes called sour gum and tupelo gum. The water tupelo is also called cotton gum; the black tupelo, black gum and pepperidge.
The water tupelo is found in swamps in most parts of the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain. It grows 70 to 100 feet (21 to 30 m) tall. The leaves, which are slightly toothed, are five to seven inches (12.5 to 17.5 cm) long. The purplish fruit, about one inch (2.5 cm) long, resembles a blueberry.
The black tupelo is found throughout much of the eastern third of the United States. It grows from 60 to 90 feet (18 to 27 m) high. The oval leaves are from three to five inches (7.5 to 12.5 cm) long. The fruit is oval and blue-black in color. The black tupelo is prized for its brilliant scarlet foliage in autumn. Tupelo honey, produced by bees that pollinate the small, greenish flowers on the tree, is popular in the southern United States.
The wood of tupelo trees is a widely used hardwood in the United States.
The tupelo genus is Nyssa of the sour gum family, Nyssaceae. The water tupelo is N. aquatica; the black tupelo, N. sylvatica.