February 4, 2010

Pepperidge Tree

I'm going to do posts from time to time on what I've planted.  There's a list under the tab "About My Plants" at the top.

These won't be profiles of the species or a primer on care, so don't expect education or even information; other sites and blogs do that very well.  Just some observations about plants I have given a home to in my garden, and why I planted them.

Here's the first: Nyssa sylvatica
It's also called a Pepperidge tree, a Black Tupelo, a Black Gum.  Great names for a local native.  If I change my name for professional purposes, it will be to Tupelo Pepperidge.  And if that's not enough, Nyssa sylvatica translates to nymph of the woods.

Look at the logo on the Pepperidge Farm stuffing bag... behind the barn is a tree silhouette --- that’s a pepperidge tree that the farm was named for.  Pepperidges lined the driveway of Margaret Rudkin's Connecticut farm.  She was a housewife who baked special bread for her allergic son, then started selling it out of her kitchen in 1937.  It's now a national brand.... it is, isn't it?  Do people outside New England have Pepperidge Farm cookies in the supermarket?    

Here's my pepperidge planted in 2006 and photographed that same year.  Someday this will be a tall, structured tree with glossy leaves.  And jaw dropping red fall color.  It's planted at the very edge of our back yard.  From the patio it's a focal point to interrupt your eye before the wild field beyond takes your gaze.  And it's there to provide shade for the yard in contrast to the sunbaked open meadow beyond it.  Someday.

Already mine shows deep red in the fall, but it's more russety than the fire engine hues I see in the tree books.

Here's the thing: they're very slow growing.  See the spindly trunk?  It still looks like that 3 years later, which is probably why I don't have any later photos of it.  They grow naturally in the swampy woods here in the northeast, so I try to give it extra water.  But I will never sit under this tree's dense canopy.

I love the idea of the tupelo so much, though, that I planted 4 others, all in the meadow behind our yard.
  • One got eaten to the ground by rabbits, but sprouted back; after two years it is now up to my ankles.  
  • One got girdled by bark-gnawing voles, and died.  
  • One is planted amid volunteer maple saplings on the hill and doing well, about half the size of my giant-to-be in the photo above.
  • The last is a named cultivar I just planted in 2009 called 'Big Momma" from a fancy nursery, and the deer found that out right away.  They leave the other tupelos alone, but this one they denuded twice during the summer and twice it leafed back out. It has larger leaves than the typical black gum, but I think the deer like it so much because it just tastes expensive.  It was only a 1 gallon potted whip, with 5 branches and a dozen leaves, so it can't be much of a snack for them, but then caviar comes in awfully small jars too.
At this rate, I'll never sit under Big Momma's canopy either.

Nyssa sylvatica:
in University of Connecticut's plant files.
in Mobot's database
in American Beauty's catalog

13 comments:

  1. Its so nice that you plant trees - even if you dont get to sit under their canopy because they are slow growing - future generations will.

    Your Pepperidge Tree sounds wonderful - anything with good Autumn colour is a plus in my book.
    K

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  2. Well Mz Tupelo Pepperidge there are Pepperidge Farm breads and cookies here in SW Indiana. It is a marvelous tree. I didn't know it grew so slowly. The world thanks you for planting them.

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  3. Karen and Lisa: thanks for admiring my little tree. Come back in 40 years to see how it looks! Yours, Tupelo Pepperidge : )

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  4. Hmmm, I think the rabbits around here have a nose for the expensive as well :)

    I grew up on the east coast of Canada and well remember Pepperridge Farms bread and cookies. I had no idea there was a tree. Thank you for sharing! (with us, not so much with the wildlife :))

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  5. Hi Garden Ms. S - It sounds like you don't have Pepperidge Farm stuff out west now, if you remember them only from childhood back east. Too sad.

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  6. Mint Milano was my son's favorite cookie as a teenager~I love this tree and wish I had a few in my garden. The flowers make especially good tasting honey. Every year I buy a container of tupelo honey from the Apalachicola River basin. Quite tasty. gail

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  7. Hi Gail. I wish I could make honey from my tree, but it's the Nyssa aquatica that you Southerners have that produces tupelo honey. My Nyssa sylvatica doesn't, but I love it anyway. What IS that bird creature at your door?? I'll have to poke around your blog and see if you identify your wildlife friends!

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  8. I love the Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano cookies too. Black Gums are beautiful trees -- I hadn't heard of the common name Pepperidge Tree before now.

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  9. Sweet bay, thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll think of these lovely trees now every time you pop a mint cookie!

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  10. Hi Laurie -- came over to visit from everchanginggarden.ca. What a great yard you are building! I'm jealous you were able to get a Nyssa Sylvatica. I have been trying to source a local one for two years! You've given me courage to try once more. And I can't believe you have bobcats in the yard -- I thought our coyotes were enough.
    Keep up the blog, I enjoyed the reading. You have a better way with words than I do! FYI I moved my blog to wordpress but you can still find it from the website.

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  11. Everchanging Gardener, thanks for coming over here. I found yours with no problem at your new wordpress location. I'm looking forward to seeing how your gardens look this summer -- and I hope to see a nice black gum in there somewhere!

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  12. Stumbled across your charming post today from a "Pepperidge Tree" Google. Just planted an expensive cloned/grafted cultivar "Green Gable" as the focal point in my front yard. It's a mere 1" caliper. Down here in Charlotte, NC, they're characterized as moderate growers. I chose it to replace a red maple that grew too aggressively buckling sidewalks 20 feet away and destroying rock walls I built. I'm 53 and hope I'm not an optimistic fool in planting this. Time will tell. If so, that's OK as trees are a pay-it-forward prospect. At least I won't have to replace another masonry wall in my lifetime. Ha! And yes, Pepperidge Farm products are widespread throughout the South, and much loved. Thanks for your original post. Charming!!

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  13. Stumbled across your charming post today from a "Pepperidge Tree" Google. Just planted an expensive cloned/grafted cultivar "Green Gable" as the focal point in my front yard. It's a mere 1" caliper. Down here in Charlotte, NC, they're characterized as moderate growers. I chose it to replace a red maple that grew too aggressively buckling sidewalks 20 feet away and destroying rock walls I built. I'm 53 and hope I'm not an optimistic fool in planting this. Time will tell. If so, that's OK as trees are a pay-it-forward prospect. At least I won't have to replace another masonry wall in my lifetime. Ha! And yes, Pepperidge Farm products are widespread throughout the South, and much loved. Thanks for your original post. Charming!!

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