Pepperidge Tree

Location:  Along path from Library to Health Sciences

This is the Pepperidge Tree, more commonly known as the Sour Gum, or Black Gum, or Black Tupelo.  Pepperidge Farm bakery takes its name from the family farm of the original baker.  To honor its history, the corporation plants a Pepperidge Tree at each of its locations including its nearby bakery in Willard, OH.  The Sour Gum name is from the sour taste of the fruits. No one knows the origin of the name Black Gum but Tupelo is a Creek Indian word meaning "tree of the swamp."

The scientific name of the tree is Nyssa sylvatica and it is a member of the family Nyssaceae.  The genus name, Nyssa, honors the beautiful water nymph from Greek mythology.  The species epithet, sylvatica, means "of the forest."

The leaves are alternate, simple, and elliptic.  Leaf margins are usually without teeth.  The upper surface of the leaf is a rich, dark green and very glossy in Summer.  In Autumn the leaves turn a brilliant red or (in some) orange.

The trees are either male or female.  The trees produce clusters of very small flowers which appear in Spring and produce large amounts of nectar which is harvested by honeybees.  Tupelo honey is very delicious.  The 1/2 inch long fruits on female trees are dark blue.  They ripen in late September and October.  Birds love to eat them.  

There are several very old Black Gum trees in this part of the forest.  Notice how the bark is very thick and divided into blocks.  This has been called "alligator bark."  Lumber from black gum trees is very hard to split but can be used for pallets, tool handles, rough floors, and firewood.  The beautiful symmetry of the trees and their brilliant Autumn foliage make them excellent plants for the home landscape.  They are difficult to transplant because they have very deep taproots.
-- David Kramer

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