Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Nyssa sylvatica

Blackgum, Black tupelo, Sourgum, Tupelo, Pepperridge

Cornaceae (Dogwood Family)

Nyssa sylvatica (Blackgum)
Makin, Julie
Tree with a dense, conical or sometimes flat-topped crown, many slender, nearly horizontal branches, and glossy foliage turning scarlet in autumn. An attractive, variable-shaped deciduous tree, black tupelo grows 30-60 ft. or taller, with horizontally spreading branches. A bottle-shaped trunk forms if grown in shallow standing water. Smooth, waxy, dark-green summer foliage changes to fluorescent yellow, orange, scarlet and purple in fall. (Trees in warmer climates may not be as colorful.) Berries are small and blue.

A handsome ornamental and shade tree, Black Tupelo is also a honey plant. The juicy fruit is consumed by many birds and mammals. Swamp Tupelo (var. biflora (Walt.) Sarg.), a variety with narrower oblong leaves, occurs in swamps in the Coastal Plain from Delaware to eastern Texas.

Image Gallery:

25 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Black, Blue
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: NB , ON
Native Distribution: S. ME to MI, IL & s.e. MO, s. to FL Panhandle & e. TX
Native Habitat: Low, wet woods; drier, sandy sites

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Various acid soils. Acid-based, Gravelly, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay.
Conditions Comments: This is a wide-ranging tree, found in a variety of habitats, so plants of local ecotype are necessary to ensure success. It is slow-growing. This species tolerates drier sites than N. aquatica and also tolerates poor drainage. Black gum transplants poorly due to a fleshy, non-fibrous root system. Move up to 4 in. caliper trees in the spring before onset of growth. Black gum does not age gracefully and is occasionally troubled by insect and disease problems.


Use Ornamental: Shade tree, Fall conspicuous, Bog or pond area, Water garden
Use Wildlife: Substrate-insectivorous birds, Fruit-birds, Fruit-mammals, Browse, Nectar-bees
Attracts: Birds

Last Update: 2013-09-06