Nyssa sylvatica

black gum

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

Black gum glows in the fall landscape, with colors ranging from fiery reds to clear golden yellows. It is a very tough urban-tolerant tree able to grow in poor heavy soils in dry or wet conditions. It has a straight trunk with strongly layered, horizontal branches. Its slow rate of growth makes it well-suited to city gardens. It develops strong wood which rarely breaks in storms. Black gum is variable in growing habit. While most trees grow strongly upright from the tip, you occasionally see trees that tend to droop slightly at the tip, creating a slightly weeping habit with time.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: tree

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 18 ft. 0 in. (5.49 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 12 ft. 0 in. (3.66 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 40 ft. 0 in. (12.19 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 20 ft. 0 in. (6.10 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9

Flower Color: green

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun to light or open shade

Water Requirements: regular summer watering

Seasonal Interest: autumn color

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: red, orange, yellow

Great Color Partners: chartreuse, dark green

Culture Notes
This tough tree prefers full sun to light or open shade. It is adaptable to many different soil conditions from well-drained to wet soils. It will also tolerate sandy sites and clay. It looks best when it gets regular summer watering. Little pruning is needed to maintain its shape, remove dead, broken or poorly formed branches.