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Nyssa sylvatica is often confused with:
Diospyros virginiana Form
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Tilia americana Tilia americana
Quercus coccinea Fall color
Acer rubrum Acer rubrum

Nyssa Nyssa sylvatica

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
NY-suh sil-VAT-ee-kuh
Description

Blackgum or Black Tupelo is a native deciduous tree that may grow 50 ft.-80 ft. tall but typically reaches 20 ft.-30 ft. in cultivation.  It is slow growing reaching about 12 ft.-15 ft. in about ten years, growing faster with a good watering and fertilizer schedule. It is found in dry upland forests (occasionally bottomlands), savannas, and upland depressions that are occasionally flooded. The Blackgum is grown as an ornamental for its beautiful, scarlet red, fall color and the shiny, dark green leaves in the summer.  

It 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 plants being loaded with egg-shaped blue-black berries, while others may only have a few berries.  The nectar from the flowers is sought after by bees and Tupelo honey is highly prized.

This tree is an excellent choice to support wildlife in the landscape.  It is tolerant of drought, heat, dry and wet soils, and moderately salt tolerant.  It withstands wind and ice and salt spray in coastal locations.  

Key to Nyssa

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Seasons of Interest: 

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

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Leaf miner, and scale are occasional insect pests.  It has some susceptibility to leaf spots, canker, and rust.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Entrance Statement, Fescue Grass
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Autumn Cascades'
    Weeping
  • 'Green Gable'
    Upright branching, red fall color
  • 'Red Rage'
    Bright red fall color, little leaf spot.
  • 'Red Splyndor'
    Red fall color
  • 'Sheri's Cloud'
    Variegated foliage
  • 'Snow Flurries'
  • 'Sparkler'
  • 'Wildfire'
    New growth bronze-red
  • 'Zydeco Twist'
    Contorted growth
'Autumn Cascades', 'Green Gable', 'Red Rage', 'Red Splyndor', 'Sheri's Cloud', 'Snow Flurries', 'Sparkler', 'Wildfire', 'Zydeco Twist'
Tags:
#bees#deciduous#fall color#shade tree#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#slow growing#native tree#shade tolerant#honey bees#nectar plant#street tree#reptiles#honey#food source#wind tolerant#low flammability#NC native#foxes#black bears#bats#wild turkeys#racoons#thrushes#opossums#deer resistant#glossy leaves#frogs#fire resistant#bears#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#honeybees#food source summer#NC Native Pollinator Plant#food source herbage#food source nectar#coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#fruits#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#fall color red#audubon#wet soil intolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Autumn Cascades'
    Weeping
  • 'Green Gable'
    Upright branching, red fall color
  • 'Red Rage'
    Bright red fall color, little leaf spot.
  • 'Red Splyndor'
    Red fall color
  • 'Sheri's Cloud'
    Variegated foliage
  • 'Snow Flurries'
  • 'Sparkler'
  • 'Wildfire'
    New growth bronze-red
  • 'Zydeco Twist'
    Contorted growth
'Autumn Cascades', 'Green Gable', 'Red Rage', 'Red Splyndor', 'Sheri's Cloud', 'Snow Flurries', 'Sparkler', 'Wildfire', 'Zydeco Twist'
Tags:
#bees#deciduous#fall color#shade tree#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#slow growing#native tree#shade tolerant#honey bees#nectar plant#street tree#reptiles#honey#food source#wind tolerant#low flammability#NC native#foxes#black bears#bats#wild turkeys#racoons#thrushes#opossums#deer resistant#glossy leaves#frogs#fire resistant#bears#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#honeybees#food source summer#NC Native Pollinator Plant#food source herbage#food source nectar#coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#fruits#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#fall color red#audubon#wet soil intolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Nyssa
    Species:
    sylvatica
    Family:
    Nyssaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America, NC
    Distribution:
    Maine south to FL west to TX OK NB and Missouri north east through IL and MI and Ontario
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    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 from August through October. It is one of the most important food sources for fall song bird migration.  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.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire. This tree is somewhat resistant to deer damage.
    Edibility:
    The honey from this tree is highly prized.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 20 ft. 8 in. - 35 ft. 6 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Blue
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Description:
    In the late summer to mid-fall the tree produces a bluish black egg-shaped fruit. Fruits are available August-October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers bloom in the spring from April-June are not showy. They are 0.5" in size.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Orange
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are 3 in.-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.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Rectangle
    Square
    Bark Description:
    The bark is light grey and deeply furrowed to create rectangular or square ridges (cobbled).
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Bats
    Bees
    Frogs
    Pollinators
    Reptiles
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Fire
    Heat
    Salt
    Wet Soil
    Wind