Nyssa sylvatica

Black Tupelo, Black Gum




  • native to northeastern United States down through Texas
  • hardy to zone 4

Habit and Form

  • a large deciduous tree
  • 30' to 50' tall
  • 20' to 30' wide
  • pyramidal in youth maturing to a flat-topped crown
  • horizontal branches sometimes pendulous
  • medium texture
  • slow growth rate

Summer Foliage

  • alternate leaf arrangement
  • simple, ovate leaves
  • 3" to 6" long
  • 1.5" to 3" wide
  • entire or remotely toothed leaf margins
  • dark green leaf color

Autumn Foliage

  • florescent yellow to orange to red or purple colors
  • very showy


  • not ornamentally significant
  • polygamo-dioeceous; primarily acts like a dioecious species


  • bluish-black drupes
  • 0.5' long
  • ripens in late September
  • birds eat fruit
  • female trees only


  • dark gray brown bark color
  • bark has irregular ridges, block-like


  • has a taproot, making it difficult to transplant
  • prefers moist, well-drained, acidic deep soils
  • full sun
  • fire resistant
  • fall pruning recommended

Landscape Use

  • specimen
  • street tree
  • lawn tree
  • for fall foliage


  • leaf spot
  • rusts
  • tupelo leaf miner

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


  • by seed
  • by cuttings


var. biflora - Called the "Swamp Tupelo", this 50' tree is naturally found in swampy areas and is adapted to poorly drained garden situations.

'Autumn Cascades' - Specialty nurseries are beginning to produce this new, strongly weeping form that shows good fall color. Once accepted by horticulturists, this plant may become a worthy addition to the small list of native weeping plant selections.

'Miss Scarlet' - This is a selection notable for its quality foliage (deep green in summer and red in fall) and abundant production of bluish fruit.

'NXSXF' (Forum™) - Selected for its pyramidal habit and dense, glossy foliage, this new cultivar displays good red fall color. It is one of the few standard cultivars of this wonderful native species.

'Pendula' - Probably not as good a form as 'Autumn Cascades', this selection has an irregular slightly weeping habit that benefits from training. The leaves, however, are deep glossy green and show good fall color.

'Red Red Wine' (also listed as 'Red Wine') - New to this country and not commonly available, this cultivar is reportedly notable for the red coloring of the new growth, which becomes more subdued with age.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

The digital materials (images and text) available from the UConn Plant Database are protected by copyright. Public use via the Internet for non-profit and educational purposes is permitted. Use of the materials for profit is prohibited.

Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.