Black Gum

Leaf and flower


The black gum is a large tree that is well-suited to a variety of soils and has a brilliant and vivid array of colors in the fall.

This tree is eligible for a $100 Tree Rebate. If you’d like help with the planting, check out our RiverSmart Homes program.

More detail: Black Gum’s Tree of the Month.

Common Name:
Black gum

Latin Name:
Nyssa sylvatica

Leaf: Alternate, simple, oblong to obovate in shape with an entire margin, occasionally shallow lobes (or coarse teeth) near tip; dark green above and slightly paler below

Flower: Light green in color, in clusters hanging from slender stalks

Fruit/nut: A dark, purplish blue fleshy coat surrounding a ribbed pit

Twig/branches: Moderately stout, red-brown to gray; buds are pointed, green and light brown, but darkening to brown in the winter

Bark: Gray-brown and shallowly, irregularly furrowed; on old stems it can become quite blocky, resembling alligator hide

Form: Branches come out at right angles to the trunk and either extend horizontally or droop a little, making a long, narrow, cone-like head

Size: Black gums can grow to around 80 feet tall

Native Range: Southwestern Maine and New York, central Michigan, Illinois, and central Missouri, south to southern Florida, eastern Texas, and eastern Oklahoma

Type: Medium deciduous tree

Seasonal Colors: This tree turns to a brilliant red in the fall

Soil: Grows best in well-drained, light-textured, acidic soils, but can grow in less acidic soil as well

Light: Thrives in partial shade to sun

Similar Species: Swamp tupelo, common persimmon, sourwood, Ogeechee tupelo

Pests and Diseases: Botryosphaeria canker, black leaf spot, heart rot, leaf miners, caterpillars, and scale insects may all be problems.

Rebate Eligibility:

Of Note: Black gum is a major source of wild honey in many areas within its native habitat. The wood of the tree is durable and resistant to splitting, which has led to its use for making mauls, pulleys, wheel hubs, agricultural rollers, bowls, and paving blocks.