Black Gum Tree

Botanical Name: Nyssa sylvatica

Alternate Name: Black Tupelo, Blackgum

The Black Gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica), also known as the Black Tupelo tree is a majestic, medium to large sized deciduous tree. This tree grows with a straight, dominant leader and branches growing out at a right-angle. The Black Gum starts off with a pyramidal shape as a juvenile. As it matures, it develops a more rounded, conical crown. Black Gum is prized for its bright red fall color and the shade it provides. This tree grows to a height of 30-50 feet and a spread of 20-30 feet.

The leaves of the Black Gum tree are attractive, glossy, and dark green, with a lighter green underside. They grow up to 4-5 inches in length and are elliptical to obovate in shape – broadening slightly towards the tip of the leaf. The margins are either finely toothed or entire. In the fall, Black Gum puts on a vibrant display with the leaves turning a stunning deep scarlet red.

The Black Gum tree can be male or female, although both trees can develop a number of perfect flowers (containing both male and female parts). However, in order to produce fruits on the female tree, a male tree must also be planted nearby. The flowers appear in May or June and are whitish-green. They are fairly inconspicuous but nectar rich and very attractive to bees.

After the flowers, long fruits develop and ripen to a dark blue color. They are oval shaped and half an inch in length. The fruits are edible but very sour and more attractive to wildlife than people.

The Black Gum tree can grow in both wet and dry soils but prefers moist soils. It will also tolerate standing water. This tree can also be somewhat drought tolerant once established.

No serious disease or insect problems. The leaves can be susceptible to leaf spots, canker, and rust.


Height 30-50 ft.

Width: 20-30 ft.

Shape: Conical, Pyramidal

Flower Color: Greenish-White

Flowering Time: May-June

Fall Color: Red

Features: Outstanding fall color, beautiful silhouette

Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

Watering: Moderate/Heavy & Regular

Soil: Prefers moist acidic soils. Tolerates soggy soils and can grow in some standing water. Tolerates clay. Can also tolerate somewhat dry soils.

Growth Rate: Slow

USDA Zones: 3-9

Uses: Shade tree, lawn tree, park tree, street tree, rain garden, large woodland gardens

Similar trees: Nyssa sylvatica 'Wildfire' (Wildfire Black Gum), Nyssa sylvatica 'M.O.N. 2' (Majestic Black Gum)