Nyssa biflora

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Common names: swamp tupelo,[1] water gum, swamp black gum[2]

Nyssa biflora
Nyssa biflora BH.jpg
Photo by Bobby Hattaway at the Discover Life Database
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicots
Order: Cornales
Family: Cornaceae
Genus: Nyssa
Species: N. biflora
Binomial name
Nyssa biflora
Natural range of Nyssa biflora from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Taxonomic Notes

Synonyms: Nyssa biflora ssp. biflora; N. biflora var. biflora; N. sylvatica Marshall var. biflora (Walter) Sargent[2]

Varieties: none[2]


N. biflora is a perennial tree of the Cornaceae family that is native to North America.[1]


N. biflora is found throughout the southeastern United States; specifically, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Deleware, New Jersey, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.[1] The species is a small to large tree whose leaves with a thick texture, typically widest beyond the middle, a typically-obtuse apex, and entire margins. The leaf dimensions are usually that are 5-14 cm x 1.5-4 cm. The trunk is swollen or buttressed at base, and the bark of large trees rough, with a vertical ridge-furrow pattern. Finally, the flowers are pistillate, while the fruit is ovoid and 7-14 mm long.[2]



Ideal soil for N. biflora is wet bottomland soils, such as mucks, heavy clays, and wet sands. Shallow moving water is ideal such as swamp banks, ponds, and estuaries. Practically full sunlight is necessary fro successful growth. [1] Likely habitats include river swamps, depressions in pinelands, and pocosins.[2] Nyssa biflora can be a predominant species in the natural habitats it is found in, particularly in pineland ponds.[3] It is commonly on the sandy, peaty shores of the ponds or swamps.[4] Nyssa biflora is frequent and abundant in the Central Florida Flatwoods/Prairies community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[5]


N. biflora has been observed flowering in March, April, and May, as well as in September and October.[6]

Seed dispersal

Seeds are dispersed by gravity and birds, some carried away by water.[1] Seeds can tolerate some competition when germinating.[1]

Fire ecology

Populations of Nyssa biflora have been known to persist through repeated annual burning.[7]

The White tail deer utilize the twigs and foliage. Small mammals and birds will eat the fruit. Also, birds and small mammals will make nests and cavities in the tree. The flowers provide nectar for bees. [1]

Diseases and parasites

The forest tent caterpillar will cause growth loss and mortality for N. biflora[1] The tree can also develop lesions due to Fusarium solani. A variety of fiungi can cause heartrot. It is also prone to sapsucker.[1]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Regeneration is possible by clear cutting in preparation of a large seed fall.[1]

Controlling deer population is necessary for conserving N. biflora.[1]

It also can compete with loblolly and long-leaf pines for water and sun light which can hinder its growth.[1]

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 USDA Plant Database
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Weakley, A.S. 2020. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Edition of 20 October 2020. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  3. Hall, T. F. and W. T. Penfound (1943). "Cypress-gum communities in the blue girth swamp near Selma, Alabama." Ecology 24(2): 208-217.
  4. URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: June 2018. Collectors: R. Kral, States and counties: Alabama (Covington), Florida (Gulf, Franklin), Georgia (Grady)
  5. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  6. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. www.gilnelson.com/PanFlora/ Accessed: 24 MAY 2018
  7. Platt, W.J., R. Carter, G. Nelson, W. Baker, S. Hermann, J. Kane, L. Anderson, M. Smith, K. Robertson. 2021. Unpublished species list of Wade Tract old-growth longleaf pine savanna, Thomasville, Georgia.