The Black Gum Tree is one of the reasons people enjoy the fall season for its beautiful variety of colors in the foliage. It is such a favorite tree for its vibrant autumn tones, from yellow to orange and red to purple and scarlet. You can find it from as far north as Ontario down to the tip of Florida and as far west as Texas. It's also known as the black tupelo, and its Latin name is Nyssa sylvatica.
The Black Gum Tree needs at least four hours of direct sunlight each day. It thrives in many soil types: well-drained, acidic, moist, loamy, silty loam, and sandy earth. With these perfect conditions, the tree can grow 12 to twenty-four inches per year. At maturity, the tree can achieve heights of 30 to 50 feet.
As the tree ages, the bark on its dark gray, brown trunk develops furrows which cause it to resemble alligator or crocodile hide. That is yet another reason why this tree is so visibly attractive. The tree's trunk can grow as large as 39 inches in diameter. Trees have been known to grow to 67 inches in diameter and as tall as 115 feet.
The Black Gum Tree's leaves are oval, obovate, elliptical, and three to six inches long with serrated edges. The surface of the leaves is shiny with wavy perimeters. Deer enjoy eating these leaves off seedlings, making it difficult for these trees to reach maturity. Each May to June, this deciduous tree produces a small greenish-yellowish-white flower that is loved by bees. Many bees in Florida use this tree to create honey, which is richly prized. The tree also produces a small blue-black slightly sour fruit that small birds consume ferociously. Holes that appear quite often in this tree are frequently inhabited by squirrels, raccoons, honeybees, and opossums.
This tree is used as an ornamental addition to parks and private landscapes. It can adorn a space for as long as 650 years. It is spreading its canopy 20-35 feet and joining the company of the brilliant colored trees, Tupelos, maple, dogwood, sassafras, and sweet gum in beautifying the landscape each fall.