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Nyssa sylvatica Marshall
Blackgum, Black tupelo, Sourgum, Tupelo, Pepperridge
Synonym(s): Nyssa sylvatica var. caroliniana, Nyssa sylvatica var. dilatata, Nyssa sylvatica var. typica
USDA Symbol: nysy
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
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.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Breeding System:
, Dioecious Leaf:
Green Autumn Foliage:
Black, Blue Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
, WV Canada: NB
, ON Native Distribution:
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.
Fall conspicuous, Bog or pond area, Water garden Use Wildlife:
Substrate-insectivorous birds, Fruit-birds, Fruit-mammals, Browse, Nectar-bees Attracts:
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
National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2013-09-06
Research By: TWC Staff