Description: A fine native tree with brilliant autumn color, an interesting silhouette, and the ability to endure adverse conditions. It often occurs in moist environments but tolerates moderately well drained upland soils equally well – though it is not considered drought tolerant. Deep glossy green leaves emerge with a slight purple cast in spring. They are elliptical and entirely and pleasantly non-descript until autumn when they become flaming demons of fiery red, orange, and occasionally verging towards yellow. It is for this flamboyant show the tupelo is most prized.
Inconspicuous green flowers occur in tight clusters in spring. If the polygamo-dioecious flowers (unisexual flowers but sometimes both male & female flowers occur on same tree) are successfully pollinated then blue to black fruit will follow, ripening in late summer and providing tasty morsels for songbirds.
Another noteworthy feature is the fine form of this 90′ tall native–it ultimately forms a pyramid, with slender branches in elegant horizontal tiers, lower ones often drooping to the ground. Its ultimate height is reached at a moderate pace–reaching perhaps 30′ after 20 years. Most importantly the tupelo is resistant to pests and diseases. Hardy to Zone 4.
- Type/habit: Large tree
- Key season and features of interest: Brilliant red to orange fall foliage
- Flowering period: May – June
- Evergreen or deciduous: Deciduous
- Native? Yes
- Pollinator plant: Attracts bees
- Wildlife benefits: Nectar is food source for bees; fruits are food source for birds and wildlife
- Site/Condition tolerance: Wet, clay, dry or rocky soils; standing water
- Sun/Shade preference: Full sun to partial sun
- Soil condition preference: Moist, acidic, average soil
- Low maintenance; pest and disease resistant
Growth Habit: Slow growing, pyramidal form becoming rounded to flat-topped with age
Size (mature height and spread): 30-50’ tall by 20-30’ wide
Hardiness (USDA Zones): 3-9
Nativity: Eastern United States
Suggested Uses: Specimen, shade tree
Year of award: 2009