The Water Tupelo is a large aquatic tree that is native to floodplains and swamps from Florida to Texas north to Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia. It is often seen growing in standing water in the lower Mississippi Valley and southeastern U.S. coastal areas, either in pure stands or in combination with bald cypress, water oaks and swamp cottonwoods. It grows to 80â (less frequently to 100') tall and features a swollen base (like bald cypress), upward tapering trunk and rounded spreading crown. Trees are typically symmetrical in youth but more irregular with age. Large, glossy, oblong to obovate, dark green leaves (4-8" long) usually have smooth edges (but sometimes sparse marginal teeth) and usually are finely downy (but sometimes glabrous) underneath. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Trees are primarily dioecious (male and female flowers on separate trees), but sometimes a few perfect flowers appear on the same tree. Greenish-white flowers (male in clusters and female solitary) bloom in spring. Dark purple fruit (drupes to 1" long) mature in fall. Bees love the flowers of tupelo gum (tupelo honey is sold throughout the South). Wood is used for crates, broom handles and floors. Easily grown in medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, acidic soils. Tolerates poorly-drained soils and can grow in standing water. It is common in some parts of its range but plants or seeds are hard to find in nurseries.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted in the fall for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy.
1. Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for 1-2 months.
2. Fill a pot with potting soil.
3. Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
4. Water the container.
5. Put the pot in an area that is in full sun or part shade.
6. Water the pot regularly so that the soil is moist.
7. The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.