I have just recently gotten reconnected with an old friend of mine. Probably been two years or so since we last spoke. He runs a nursery in the upper part of South Carolina. He is one of my Citrus mentors and I have learned a great deal from him. I was asking how business has been and how all of his Citrus trees (he has a grove up there) have fared. I didn't know it, but he has branched out from just Citrus and vegetables. He was telling me all the cool new fruits he has started selling and one of them REALLY caught my eye.....The Ogeechee Lime. Of course being the Citrus Guy I had to find out more about this "Lime," I had never heard of. Well, it's not Citrus folks!
The Ogeechee Lime (Nyssa ogeche) is in the Tupelo Family. It is also known as Ogeechee tupelo, sour tupelo gum, white tupelo, and bee tupelo.
This tree is native to the Southeast and was first discovered by William Bartram along the Ogeechee River in Georgia. Ogeechee tupelo requires a very moist site and is distributed along the borders of rivers, swamps, and ponds. So if you have a really wet spot in your yard that nothing seems to grow in, this might just be the plant you are looking for.
At maturity it will average between 30 and 40 feet tall with a 25-30 foot spread. It is deciduous, so you will be raking leaves up in the Fall from it. Full sun to partial shade. The bark is even rather attractive.
There is some discrepancy as to how wide of a growing range these things have. The consensus seems to be Zones 7-9 with the Ogeechee river in Georgia being the center point.
There are two wonderful by products of this tree. I mentioned that it is in the Tupelo family, I am sure many of you have heard of Tupelo Honey. Pure Tupelo honey has a light amber golden color with a slight greenish cast. This honey is a choice table grade honey with a delicious flavor and a delicate distinctive taste. Honey produced from the White Tupelo is the only honey that will not granulate.
The other thing this tree produces is fruit.
In the Spring, white flowers appear. The tree is then a striking figure when it is laden with its red fruits, kind of looking like dates, but they are about the size and shape of pecan nuts. They hang in profuse clusters from August till late Fall, long after they are ripe and the leaves have fallen. Some people consider the fruit to be of only marginal quality, it is used as a substitute for limes and other sour citrus. It is also used as an ingredient in drinks, marmalades, and sauces.
Each fruit contains one, rarely two seeds that have a papery seedcoat. You will want to plant the seeds as soon as possible, they have a relatively short life span. There is not much research on when a seedling tree will produce fruit, however, seedlings planted on a lake shore in Florida grew to a height of almost 8 feet in 3 years and matured a good crop of fruit at that time.
There are a number of Wildlife issues that are associated with the Ogeechee Lime, The dense foliage provides excellent nesting and escape cover for birds. Fruits are eaten by opossums, otters, raccoons, deer, bear, and squirrels. It is a favorite food among ducks and you can watch them congregate around the tree to pick up the fruit as it falls.
There apparently are not many problems associated with this tree, no pests or diseases are of major concern but it is occasionally bothered by Tupelo leaf miner, scale, rust, and leaf spot.
If I have gotten you excited about growing one of these, you might encounter a couple of problems. Unfortunately, it is usually not grown by many nurseries.
But there is hope!
Remember I started this blog out by saying that friend of mine is growing them?
He has a nice website of all the Citrus trees he sells, you can see that here: Website
Or if you just want to send Stan an E-Mail and ask about the Ogeechee Lime, his e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Either way, I hope I have opened your eyes to a new native tree, my friends at the Native Plant Society will be so proud!