Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Black Tupelo, Black Gum, Sour Gum

Black Tupelo, Black Gum, Sour Gum

Nyssa sylvatica

Full to part sun; moderately wet to moderately dry moisture level; grows in a wide range of soils including silt loams, gravelly, sandy, sandy loam, clay loam and clay; moderately acid pH.

30-50 feet height by 20-30 feet spread; small greenish white flowers on long stems in late spring to early summer; blue, fleshy berry, 3/8 inch long, in fall.

Growth Rate: Slow.   Easily accelerated into a medium growth rate with adequate water and fertilizer.

Maintenance: Low. Occasional disease and insect problems. Leaf spot can be a frequent problem; most trees contract this disease which can be quite disfiguring. Does best in a location sheltered from winds.

Propagation: Seed germination code C (60-90) at 41 degrees F.

Native Region: Statewide

This canopy tree is one of our most beautiful native shade trees. Lovely in a naturalized setting. One of the best and most consistent native trees for fall color, ranging from fluorescent yellow to orange to scarlet to purple. Flowers appear after leaves begin to unfold. Male and female flowers borne on separate trees. Female tree needs a male tree to set fruit. Native to both low wet woods and to drier, sandy sites. Easy to grow in medium to wet soils. Tolerates poorly drained soils. Cultivars available, including ‘Red Rage’ which is essentially free of leaf spot.

Juicy fruit consumed by many birds and mammals. Flowers attract bees. Host plant to relatively few insects.




One response to “Black Tupelo, Black Gum, Sour Gum

  1. joystewart September 1, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    I have two of these trees, and I would say that the written description above is very accurate. The only thing that I have found is that you should keep an eye on their growth pattern over at least the first 5-10 years. Mine seem to have a habit of sending up perfectly vertical branches that can’t possibly go anywhere and need to be trimmed off. Also one of my trees developed two main leaders which fortunately a friend of mine, who is a retired horticulturist, spotted. He told me to cut one of them out to avoid having the tree split later on. He said once I got rid of it, I would never notice it was gone. Even though the diameter of the “trunk” was about 1 1/2 inches, he was right. Tree was healthier and better looking afterward.

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