Before I moved to southern New Hampshire, I had never heard of a “tupelo swamp.” Upon further research, however, I realized that a tupelo tree is the same thing as a black gum tree, which I had heard of but never seen in Maine or anywhere else. I am now working as a project assistant/maintainer on a preserve that encompasses one of these unusual natural wonders, so I’ve had the opportunity to explore such a swamp during this perfect fall season.

Tupelo trees, Nyssa sylvatica, are in the dogwood family. What makes this species especially unique is its ability to secretly live a long time. According to the “Eastern Old List” through Columbia University, these trees are the longest living non-clonal flowering plant in eastern North America. While that might seem like a lot of qualifiers to be interesting, I assure you that is quite an astounding fact. Eastern North America is no longer well known for having huge trees, in comparison to the redwoods and sequoias of California, but that an average-sized tree around here could exceed several hundred years old is quite amazing! These trees are like the ninjas of aging.

Tupelo swamps are quite mysterious in themselves. They exhibit every shade of green imaginable due to the layers of thick moisture-loving sphagnum moss and many species of ferns. A variety of amphibians and fungi also call these swamps home. Tupelos are often used for ornamental trees due to their bright fall foliage.This particular tupelo swamp is surrounded by tall hemlock trees, so viewing their stunning scarlet-leaves this time of year is challenging to do without mucking (destructively) through the fragile swamp.  I chose to view their leaves through the contrasting hemlock boughs rather than disrupting the timeless life within the swamp.

Tupelo Swamp (1)
Scarlet tupelo leaves seen through hemlock branches

From micro to macro, this swamp displays an amazing range of life.

Tupelo Swamp (2)
Tiny brown mushroom growing in a bed of sphagnum moss

Tupelo Swamp (3)