Black Gum Tree (Nyssa sylvatica)

Height: Usually about 50 feet, but occasionally exceeds 100

Evergreen/Deciduous: Deciduous

Lifespan: A slow-growing, long-lived tree that often survives for 500 years or more

Fall Foliage: Very attractive shades of orange to red; a true autumn show-stopper  

Range: Most of the eastern United States, west to Texas and north into Maine  

Typical Habitat: Uplands as well as damp bottomland habitats, where it grows best  

The Black Gum Tree: An Important Food Source for the Forest  

Black gum trees serve as a very important food source for many wildlife species. The berries are especially popular with a number of migratory bird species, ranging from robins to tanagers, and the flowers are frequently visited by bees and other flower-feeding insects. Deer also feed on the fruit and the foliage of young trees.

Black gum fruits are also considered edible by some people, though it is usually described as being extremely bitter. However, honey made from the flowers of this tree is quite celebrated.

Black Gum Tree Identification: Tips & Tricks

The black gum’s leaves are unfortunately relatively similar to the leaves of several other species, such as persimmons (Diospyros virginiana). However, you can often recognize black gum leaves by noting the presence of “teeth” on a small number of leaves.

You can also look at the tree’s growth habit, which often has a “spoke-and-wheel” appearance when looking up alongside the trunk. Nevertheless, the tree’s distinctive blue fruit – which is often produced in clusters of two or three – provides the easiest criteria to consider.

The Black Gum Tree: Additional Information

Want more information about the black gum tree? Check out these high-quality resources:

  • Florida IFAS Extension: Most of the general information you’d want to know about the black gum tree, including a range map and several photographs.
  • The Morton Arboretum: An assortment of tidbits about this species, including growing conditions, photographs, and wildlife interactions.    
  • U.S. Forest Service: A detailed and comprehensive source, providing information about almost all aspects of the black gum’s biology and ecology.

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