Friday, January 16, 2009

Tupelos: Trees for all seasons

     The sun's brought the temp up to two by noon.  And a breeze has the  birdfeeders swinging.  I could pile on the polarfleece and keep my body warm enough.  But aargh!  My face!  If I wrap it in scarves my glasses frost up, and the frames freeze to my cheeks.  Think I'll settle for a virtual walk in the woods instead.

     I'll go back to Rippled Rocks Point and the marsh around Three Pine Island (see last post), where I took these pictures of a black tupelo tree, one last October and the same tree three days ago.  I had never seen a black tupelo until I began paddling this area on the Hudson, and I don't find them very often anywhere else.   I met a forester a few years back who told me that tupelos are usually found farther south, but a moderated microclimate that extends up the Hudson and on up the Champlain valley allows them to thrive this far north.  At least locally.  They're never as common as maples.  They love to have their feet wet, so they grow in marshes and drainage ditches and on river banks where the water rises up into the woods from time to time.  Like the Hudson River here between two dams.  And apparently -- so this forester said --in a swamp in the nearby Lincoln Mountain state forest, where some specimens have been found to be over 600 years old.  I guess they've been here long enough we can call them natives.

     I have no idea how old this tree is.  Just because it's kind of spindly doesn't mean it's young, I've been told.  I do know, though, that it's one gorgeous tree,  with green glossy leaves in summer that come into their glory in autumn, turning a brilliant cranberry red and much earlier than its neighbors.   This one's a female tree that has nearly invisible blossoms in summer that turn into blue-black berries in the fall -- favorites of  turkeys and grouse.  There are male trees nearby with staminate flowers.  Last summer, I took this photo of a ladybug exploring one of these flowers.  On a cold, cold day like this, I like to remember summer.


Hillel said...

Yes, very nice. I did just a bit of digging deeper to confirm this is also known as Black Gum. They do have beautiful color in the fall, and a distinctive profile.

NatureGirl said...

How glorious it is in its autumn splendor! I remember Black Gum/Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) from my dendrology class, but it's been over 20 years since I've seen one.