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Nyssa sylvatica

(Black Gum)


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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Danish:

Skov Tupelotræ

Common Names in English:

Black Gum, Black Tupelo, Black-Gum, Blackgum, cotton gum, Nyssa sylvaticaBlack tupelo, Pepperidge, Sour Gum, Sour-Gum, sourgum, Tupelo

Common Names in Finnish:

Tupelo (kasvi)

Common Names in French:

gommier jaune, gommier noir, nyssa sylvestre

Common Names in unspecified:

Black Gum, Black Tupelo, Blackgum


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Family Nyssaceae

Trees or shrubs , dioecious or polygamo-monoecious . Leaves alternate, simple , estipulate. Flowers 5-merous, ± regular, subtended by 1-5 bracts; male ones in heads , racemes , or umbels; female and hermaphroditic ones solitary or in 2-12-flowered heads. Calyx tube adnate to ovary in bisexual or female flowers; lobes small or obsolete . Petals usually 5-10 (or absent). Stamens in male flowers usually 10 or more in 2 ± distinct whorls around a nectariferous disk. Ovary inferior, 1-8-loculed, with 1 pendulous, apotropous ovule per locule. Fruit a drupe; each locule of stone opening at apical part by a ± triangular abaxial valve at germination. Seeds 1-5; embryo straight; endosperm copious .

Five genera and about 30 species: mostly in temperate regions of E Asia and E North America; three genera (two endemic) and ten species (eight endemic) in China.

Recent studies suggest that this family can alternatively be treated as part of the Cornaceae (Xiang et al. , Amer. J. Bot. 85: 285-297. 1998).[1]

Genus Nyssa

Trees dioecious. Leaves often crowded near ends of branches, estipulate. Flowers unisexual , usually in heads or short racemes , in axil of a bract with 2 bracteoles. Male flowers 5-merous. Stamens 10, arranged in two alternate whorls; filaments linear ; anthers 2-celled, dorsifixed , with lateral lengthwise slits; disk pulvinate . Female flowers (4 or) 5-merous; staminodes usually present. Ovary inferior, 1(or 2) -loculed, 1-ovuled; style bifid, with stigmatic tissue at inside of stylar arms. Fruit drupaceous , laterally flattened, with persistent calyx and disk. n = 22 [in Nyssa javanica (Blume) Wangerin (Mehra & Bawainin, Evolution 23: 466-481. 1969) ].

About 12 species: four in North America, one in Costa Rica, one from India to Malaysia, and seven (five endemic) in China.

According to C. Q. Zhang (pers. comm. ), most Chinese species of Nyssa are endangered and some of them may already have become extinct .[2]

Physical Description

ID Features: Dark blue fruit on female trees only. Imbricate large, buds that or slightly downy. Alternate leaf arrangement. Leathery, elliptical leaves. Slender, reddish brown stems. Branches at a stiff 90 degree angle. Distinctive leaf scar.

Habit: A large deciduous tree , pyramidal in youth maturing to a flat-topped crown. Horizontal branches sometimes pendulous.

Flowers: Not ornamentally significant. • Bloom Period: March, April, May. • Flower Color: chartreuse, pale green, yellow-green • Flower Conspicuous: Inconspicuous

Seeds: Fruit: Bluish-black drupes. 0.5' long. Ripens in late September. Birds eat fruit. Female trees only.

Foliage: Glossy • Foliage Shape: OvateNormal foliage color: Green • Underside foliage: Green • Juvenile foliage: Green • Mature foliage: Green • New foliage: Green • Spring foliage: Green • Summer foliage: Alternate leaf arrangement . Simple , ovate leaves. 3" to 6" long. 1.5" to 3" wide. Serrated leaf margins. Glossy dark green leaf color. • Fall foliage: Florescent yellow to orange to red or purple colors. Very showy.


Growth Rate: Slow to moderate: about 1' per year. • Size: to 30 to 50 ft . tall, 20 to 30 ft. wide, can become larger.


Landscape Uses: Specimen. Street tree . Lawn tree. For fall foliage . • Liabilities: Leaf spot. Rusts. Tupelo leaf miner. • Care: Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system . Watering can be reduced after establishment. Feed with a general purpose fertilizer before new growth begins in spring .


Hardy to zone 4.

Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 2,064 meters (0 to 6,772 feet).[3]


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Duration: Perennial


Culture: Space 20-40' apart. Has a taproot , making it difficult to transplant. Prefers moist, well-drained, acidic deep soils. Full sun . Fire resistant. Fall pruning recommended.

Soil: Organic , moist, well-drained soil. Tolerates very wet soil. • Minimum pH: 5.6 • Maximum pH: 6.0

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full sun

Moisture: Water Requirements: Once established needs only occasional water. Adapts to wet or dry sites.

Temperature: Heat Zones: High: 9 (>120 to 150 days) Low:2 (1 to 7 days) (map) • Cold Hardiness: 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b. (map)


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Nyssa multiflora var. sylvatica (Marshall) S.Watson • Nyssa sylvatica var. caroliniana (Poir.) Fern. • Nyssa sylvatica var. dilatata Fern. • Nyssa sylvatica var. typica Fern.


Publishing author : Marshall

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Nyssa

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 14 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus:

N. aquatica (Cotton Gum) · N. biflora (Swamp Black Gum) · N. ogeche (Ogeechee Tupelo) · N. sinensis (Chinese Tupelo) · N. sylvatica (Black Gum) · N. sylvatica biflora (Black Tupelo) · N. sylvatica var. sylvatica (Black Tupelo) · N. sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade' (Weeping Blackgum) · N. sylvatica 'Bernheim Select' (Black Gum Bernheim Select) · N. sylvatica 'Pendula' (Weeping Blackgum) · N. sylvatica 'Red Rage' (Black Gum) · N. sylvatica 'Sheffield Park' (Black Gum) · N. sylvatica 'Wildfire' (Wildfire Blackgum) · N. ursina (Bear Tupelo)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 22, 2007:



  1. Haining Qin & Chamlong Phengklai "Nyssaceae". in Flora of China Vol. 13 Page 300. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  2. Haining Qin & Chamlong Phengklai "Nyssa". in Flora of China Vol. 13 Page 300, 301. Published by Science Press (Beijing) and Missouri Botanical Garden Press. Online at [back]
  3. Mean = 283.920 meters (931.496 feet), Standard Deviation = 340.950 based on 107 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2015-02-06