Nyssa sylvatica

Black gum, Tupelo
NYSSACEAE, The Black gum family

When this tree is young it has crazy arms. Every day I go by two that are planted on a parking strip and I admire them. They reach out in every direction from its slender trunk, some curving upwards, some down. Right now the leaves are turning dark red, rust and purple.

Black gum is native to the eastern US. It can grow to 50 feet, and around half as wide. In the American Horticulture Society’s book “75 Great American Garden Plants”, this tree is listed as one to grow near structures or in tight spaces because of its pyramidal form. Supposedly as it ages it becomes more spreading, but it is tap-rooted so it wouldn’t interfere with foundations. That also means it must be planted with care and not moved. Black gum will do best in moist, acidic soil. While it is a lovely specimen or shade tree, it is not necessarily the best for streets or dense urban areas because of its intolerance for pollution. (We’ll see how the above two do, growing as they are on a busy street). The flowers are inconspicuous but the fruits are small, black berries that birds like.

This tree is also called Sour gum or Pepperidge.

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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