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Nyssa sylvatica

Common Name(s):
Black gum, Black tupelo, Sour gum
Green Gable, Wildfire, Red Rage, Zydeco Twist (contorted growth), Sheri's Cloud (variegated foliage), Autumn Cascades (weeping)
Native Plants, Trees

The Nyssa sylvatica or black tupelo is a native to Eastern North America. It can be found from the New England states in the North down into Florida and as far west as Eastern Texas.  It reaches heights of 60 feet or taller with a spread of 20 to 25 feet and casts filtered shade in a landscape.  Although slow-growing, it still needs to be sited in an area which affords plenty of room for future growth, particularly since it is so difficult to transplant due to long taproots.

The bark is light grey and deeply furrowed to create rectangular or square ridges (cobbled).

Tupelo honey is highly prized. Black tupelo has a flowering habit that is polygamodioecious. Polybamodioecious is a big word meaning some plants have mostly male flowers while others have mostly female flowers, with most plants having a few perfect flowers. This would account for some plant being loaded with berries, while others may only have a few berries.

This tree is moderately salt tolerant.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

     Leaves:   Fall    Bloom:  Spring, Summer     Fruit/Seed/Nut:  Fall

Wildlife Value:  This tree is somewhat resistant to deer damage.  Its young sprouts are eaten by white-tailed deer.  The fruits (berries) are enjoyed by thrushes and other songbirds, wild turkeys, black bear, foxes, raccoons and opossums.  The natural hollows that form in the tree are a refuge for reptiles, tree frogs, bats and other wildlife.  The spring flowers are a nectar source for bees.

 Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  The Black tupelo has some susceptibility to leaf spots, canker, rust, leaf miner, and scale.

40-60 ft.
The flowers of the Blackgum that bloom in the spring are not showy. They are 0.5 in. in size. In the fall the tree produces a bluish black egg-shaped fruit.
The Blackgum is best grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, acidic soils. It will tolerate poorly-drained soils and can grow in standing water. On the other end of the spectrum, it will tolerate some drought and adapts to some dryish soils, at least in the wild. Long taproot precludes moving established trees. Female trees need a male pollinator to set fruit.
Pyramidal when young; opens with age; some branches are pendulous; right angled branches are attractive in winter
Sun, part shade
20-30 ft.
Growth Rate:
Slow to moderate
The Blackgum is grown as an ornamental for its beautiful, scarlet red, fall color and the shiny, dark green leaves in the summer. The leaves are 3-6 in. alternate, simple and lustrous that turn yellow, orange, red to purple in the fall. On sprouts or young trees, the leaves may have a few coarse teeth.
deciduous, fall color, street tree, deer resistant, shade tree, ornamental shade, salt tolerant, nectar plant, honey bee, wildlife tree

NCCES plant id: 2064

Nyssa sylvatica Nyssa sylvatica
Tom Potterfield, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Nyssa sylvatica Nyssa sylvatica foliage
Tom Potterfield, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Nyssa sylvatica Whole tree
Geneva Wirth, CC BY-NC-2.0