Black Gum

Leaf and flower

Introduction

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.

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

$50

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.

Photo Credits

dogtooth77