Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica)
The Blackgum or Black Tupelo is one of the most desirable shade trees for the home landscape. So why is it generally under utilized? Maybe its because it has so many names, no one can pin it down. It is variously called Bowl Gum, Gum, Pepperidge, Plain Blackgum, Quartered Blackgum, Sour Gum, Stinkwood, Swamp Blackgum, Swamp Tupelo, Tupelo Gum, Yellow Gum, Yellow Gumtree, and Wild Pear-tree. You can probably get folks from ten different states, all owning a Blackgum tree, but each calls it by a different name. No wonder it is not very well known.

What is also a bit weird is that it has no distinctive sap and has no relationship to any kind of “gum”. The name “Tupelo” is an adaptation of the Creek Indian language. They’re the original inhabitants of Georgia, Florida and Alabama. “Eto” means tree, and “opelwv” means swamp. Despite its name and the fact that it is often found growing on the same sites, this species is not closely related to Sweetgum. Blackgum is actually in the dogwood family, while botanists have grouped Sweetgum in with the witch hazels. The scientific name for Blackgum, Nyssa sylvatica Marsh., was established in 1785 by a tree scientist named Humphrey Marshall. The Latin name literally means "water nymph of the woods."

Summary of Blackgum

Summary of Blackgum Trees
SpeciesSizeBasic Requirements
Blackgum or Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)At 20 years height is 20’ with spread of 15’. Mature height 50 to 75’ with spread 25’Zones 4B through 9, Full sun or partial shade, prefers moist, acid soil
Growth rate is slow to medium with 8 to 12 inches per year

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