Forgotten Favorite Flaunts Fabulous Fall Foliage

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Black Gum, Nyssa sylvatica, can be found in woods, and occasionally in the landscape. This time of year, its puts on a fabulous display of fall color and fruit.


gum color


and fruit.


nyssa fruit


Black Gum, also known as Sour Gum, is a native pyramidal shade tree with glossy dark green foliage that turns shades of orange and red. It makes an excellent specimen tree and can grow in full sun or partial shade.


gum pyramid shape


It occurs in the wild typically as a pioneering tree, in wet locations and except for its fall color, typically goes unnoticed. But not this time of year.


gum foliage 2


Black Gum can be used in the landscape as a specimen tree. It can be found growing individually or in groves at the woodland border or in open fields. Fall foliage ranges from scarlet to shades of orange and gold and female trees have purple fruit. 


foliage fruit


The tree also acts as a pollinator plant and can provide nectar for ‘Tupelo Honey’


The main reason this tree may have been forgotten is due to its transplant difficulties. In the wild, this tree develops a very dominant tap root, and when dug, the taproot can be severed killing the tree. Nurseries have improved cultural practices by growing seedlings in tree bands and transplanting to copper lined pots which help to form a fibrous root system that improves growth and eventual harvest as a container grown or balled and burlapped tree.


Several varieties can be found in the industry. 


Tupelo Tower Black Gum Nyssa sylvatica ‘Tupelo Tower’ has a very tight, upright habit and is ideal for smaller spaces or as an urban tree.




Autumn Cascade Sour Gum Nyssa sylvatica ‘Autumn Cascade’ is a weeping variety.


Autumn cascade


Wildfire Black Gum, Nyssa sylvatica ‘Wildfire’ has spectacular fall color progresses through yellow, orange, scarlet, to purple.


Sheri’s Cloud Black Gum, Nyssa sylvatica ‘Sheri’s Cloud’ is a variegated variety.


sherry's cloud nyssa


Zydeco Twist Black Gum, Nyssa sylvatica ‘Zydeco Twist’ has a central leader but branches twist and twirl.


Zydeco twist nyssa


Check out Black or Sour Gum and consider adding it to your landscape or design palette.