The Ogechee Tupelo or White Tupelo, is a rare swamp tree that is the source of fine Tupelo honey. It is a small tree with a leaning, curved or crooked trunk and spreading branches. The base of the trunk is enlarged, like that of the Bald Cypress, which it grows with, and the roots often grow above ground, to form interesting natural sculptures at the bases of the trees. The trees grow singly or in groups along river banks and in ponds and swamps. The tree has large, elliptic, narrowly ovate or obovate leaves with coarsely toothed margins. The leaves are medium green and they have whitish hairs on the lower surfaces. The large leaves give the tree a somewhat lush, tropical appearance. Small, green flowers are produced in the spring. The fruits are large and bright red when they are mature. The fruits are used as a lime substitute. They have an agreeably acid flavor, they make good preserves and a refreshing lemonade-like drink. The fruit is produced in small clusters of 2 - 3, it is up to 4 cm long, has a thick, juicy, very acid flesh and contains a single seed.
The White Tupelo grows in the wild from southern South Carolina to southern Georgia and northern Florida, but it is only in northwestern Florida that it grows abundantly enough to produce pure Tupelo Honey. It grows profusely along the Chipola and Apalachicola rivers of northwest Florida. Here in the river swamps, this honey is produced in a unique fashion. Bees are placed on elevated platforms along the river's edge, and they fan out through the surrounding Tupelo-blossom-laden swamps during April and May and return with their precious treasure. This river valley is the only place in the world where Tupelo Honey is produced commercially. Real Tupelo honey is a light golden amber color with a greenish cast. The flavor is delicious, delicate and distinctive; a choice table grade honey. Good white tupelo, unmixed with other honeys, will not granulate. Although the White Tupelo is a swamp tree, it grows well on drier sites and is grown as an ornamental tree and as a specimen tree. Hardy in zones 7-9.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year.
- Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for 2-3 months.
- The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Fill a pot with a mixture of half potting soil and half sand or vermiculite. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the container and leave it to drain.
- Put the pot in a warm, sunny area.
- Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist but not wet.
- The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.