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Black Gum

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Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) – The Nyssa sylvatica, also known as the black gum, is one of the most spectacular and reliable fall coloring trees, turning brilliant shades of red and orange, and has a very neat, pyramidal habit of growth. This tree is very particular about its growing conditions, needing organic, acidic soils, and being intolerant of urban pollution.


Average Landscape Height:
35 feet
Average Landscape Width:
20 feet
Growth Rate:
Summer Foliage Color:
forest green
Fall Color:
Minimum Light:
partial shade
Maximum Light:
full sun
Minimum Moisture:
Maximum Moisture:
Plant Form:
late winter pruning
Other Species Names:
Tupelo, Black Tupelo, Sour Gum, Pepperidge

Ornamental Features

Black Gum is primarily valued in the landscape for its distinctively pyramidal habit of growth. It has forest green deciduous foliage. The glossy pointy leaves turn an outstanding crimson in the fall. The furrowed black bark adds an interesting dimension to the landscape.

Landscape Attributes

Black Gum is a deciduous tree with a strong central leader and a distinctive and refined pyramidal form. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

Planting & Growing

Black Gum will grow to be about 35 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 20 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 3 feet from the ground, and should not be planted underneath power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 70 years or more.

This tree does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is very fussy about its soil conditions and must have rich, acidic soils to ensure success, and is subject to chlorosis (yellowing) of the foliage in alkaline soils. It is quite intolerant of urban pollution, therefore inner city or urban streetside plantings are best avoided, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This species is native to parts of North America.