The White (And Black) Tupelo Tree

Neal Pollard

The white tupelo tree grows in abundance only in the wetlands of the Florida panhandle and south Georgia ("tupelo" is a Creek Indian word meaning "swamp"). But, in the hands of the right beekeeper, those trees wed with honey bees to make some of the finest honey in the world.  It is "prized for its mild floral flavor, high fructose content and light amber color" (Stuart Englert, American Profile, April 7-13, 2013, p. 14ff). Bees are drawn to these trees that bloom in April and May.  Famed "tupelo honey" comes from the white tupelo tree.

But do you know about the black tupelo tree? gives it almost footnote level notice on their website.  They say, "Black Tupelo, Nyssa Biflora, blooms in advance of white tupelo and is used to build up bee colony strength and stores. Black tupelo produces a less desirable honey which will granulate and is typically sold as bakery-grade honey."

Now, honestly, if you are a honey lover, which would you prefer?  A honey compared by some to "fine wine" that will not granulate or a bakery grade, less desirable honey?  It seems clear-cut.

But, do not miss the fact that without the black tupelo tree, there is no premium honey from the white tupelo.  The black tupelo is vital to the survival of the bee colony which eventually yields the more delicious kind.  Black tupelo bloom first and fortify the bees for the task of gleaning nectar from the white tupelo and generating that expensive, prized honey.

Consider a very specific analogy from this example out of nature.  In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul makes the point that God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (18). He says "weaker members" are necessary (22) and those deemed less honorable and less presentable are still given special treatment (23).  Each part is dependent upon the other.  No member can say, "I don't need you."

Some members are more visible, more audible, and seemingly more honored.  Yet, they are not one whit above those members less so. In fact, no one in the body can survive without the rest of the body.  God made it that way. Nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without the beautiful cooperation stemming from everyone's contribution. The world cannot benefit from the salvation of Christ without all of us doing our part.  The church cannot thrive without each of us producing according to our abilities. God cannot be honored without every foot, hand, eye, and ear playing his or her part.  May we never forget that!