Nyssa sylvatica Marshall
Blackgum, Black tupelo, Sourgum, Tupelo, Pepperridge
Cornaceae (Dogwood Family)
Synonym(s): Nyssa sylvatica var. caroliniana, Nyssa sylvatica var. dilatata, Nyssa sylvatica var. typica
USDA Symbol: NYSY
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.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Black, Blue
Size Class: 72-100 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse Ornamental: Shade tree, Fall conspicuous, Bog or pond area, Water garden
Use Wildlife: Substrate-insectivorous birds, Fruit-birds, Fruit-mammals, Browse, Nectar-bees
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Honey Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationPropagation Material: Seeds
Description: Sow fresh or stratified seed in a moist, muddy soil covered by one inch of firm soil. Seedlings benefit from partial shade.
Seed Collection: Collect seed in late summer or early fall. Remove pulp and air-dry for one to two days. Store in moist sand at 48-51 degrees for up to one year.
Seed Treatment: Stratify for 30-60 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes
From the National Suppliers DirectoryAccording to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery - Orefield, PA
American Native Nursery - Quakertown, PA
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
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Recommended Species Lists
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Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Nyssa sylvatica in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Nyssa sylvatica in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Nyssa sylvatica
MetadataRecord Modified: 2013-09-06
Research By: TWC Staff