A Happy Day for Ilex!

Last spring was a sad day for me. I lost an old friend. She had been around here a lot longer than me and boy, did she have the stories to tell!! She told me about the squirrels that ran around her trunk and the birds that have sat in her branches. She told me about how the guys don’t know how to prune her right and left her with disfiguring limbs. She also worried about the woodpeckers excavating bugs from her trunk. She had just cause for worry when I noticed her trunk had become two. She made me promise to plant another tree to love me when she was gone and I did just that.

It was a difficult choice to be made to pick just one tree, to be the one tree I will be looking at for a long time. It had to be tough, as it will be on the west side, it had to take a small amount of shade from the silver maple to the south and would have to be drought tolerant, as there is no irrigation here.

I also wanted a unique tree! Nothing normal for Ilex 😉 Sorry maples, oaks and pears. Nope, no birch, hackberries or serviceberries. Not even a lilac, crabapple or linden. Not that all of these aren’t great trees, it’s just that they are pretty common. I finally decided upon a Black Tupelo or Nyssa sylvatica,  ‘nymph of the woods’.

imageZone: 3 to 9

Height: 30 to 50 feet

Spread: 20 to 30 feet

Growth: Slow

Form: Pyramidal when young; opens with age; some branches are pendulous; right angled branches are attractive in winter

Salt: Tolerant

Bloom Time: May to June, insignificant

Bloom Description: Greenish white

Fruit: 1/2″ blue drubes – edible but sour

Fall Color: yellow, orange, bright red and purple

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Tolerate: Clay Soil, Wet Soil

This was a 3″ DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) tree. This is a good size to get, as it doesn’t stress the tree out too much when its dug at the nursery.

The flowers aren’t showy, however they are a great nectar source for bees. The honey that is produced by the bees using tupelo nectar is highly prized. The Apalachicola River (Georgia) is the center of Tupelo Honey production in the United States, with abundant growths of tupelos. Each spring, beekeepers place their hives on stands or riverboats in order to access this wonderful, light-colored honey that contains just a hint of lemon.

Flowering is a bit odd for this tree as its polybamodioecious, which is a big word meaning some trees have mostly male flowers while others have mostly female flowers, with most trees having a few perfect flowers. This would account for some trees with many berries, while others may only have a few. Thus, if you are planting this tree for its fruit, buy two, so it can cross pollinate.

Tupelo’s leaves change color early in the fall and it has been suggested that this signal might alert migrating birds to the presence of ripe fruits on the tree, a process known as foliar fruit flagging. This way the tree gets its seeds spread to farther distances.


Unripe fruits


Grow grow Mr. Tupelo tree. The squirrels have figured out how to get to the feeders!


It didn’t take long for the animals to discover their new roommate. Of course the squirrels liked the seeds!

I’ll be sure to post some fall color photos when he has his fall wardrobe change.
© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

29 thoughts on “A Happy Day for Ilex!

  1. Congratulations on your new tree! I would never have thought of a Tupelo~an inspired choice. I love the horizontal branches, and the fact that it is salt-tolerant is important these days with the crazy salt-spreading that goes on around here in winter. And, oh, I love this song!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yay, yay! What a great choice! I never would have thought a tupelo would thrive in your zone, but shut my mouth, honey (and just give me some of that tupelo honey, what’s good for the bees is good for mama!)

    It’s always heartbreaking to have to take down an old friend…and so wonderful to have a new one. The squirrels have clearly embraced him already 😀

    Mazal tov on your new family member. May you all live long and prosper (it’s Gene Roddenberry’s 95th birthday, although he himself left his meat body 25 years ago)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve been following each other for a few years now… I think you know by now I ain’t normal 😋 I had to have a buddy that’s different too! This species of Tupelo is native here. The ones in Georgia are a different variety.
      I love the branching structure here. Like a pyramid. I can’t wait for the fall color and to eat some seeds.
      Love Gene and his imagination! Yup. We don’t die, we just leave our meat body behind! Ha ha ha!


      • Um, no. Not Normal. At. All. 👽

        They have edible seeds? I’ll be right over. Fall colors? Sheet, I can’t believe it’s already getting to be that time of year. Yesterday I saw the goldest Goldfinch and the reddest Cardinal I have ever seen. In the Mennonite country south of Cleveland.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: My Nymph of the Woods, in Her Autumn Color | Midwestern Plants

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