Bring the Outdoors Home

Black Gum | Plant Profile

Black Gum or Sour Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) are slow growing deciduous trees that are native to the American Midwest. When young, Black gum have a pyramidal shape that rounds out with age. They typically grow up to 50′ but can reach higher in prime conditions. The small green/white flowers and fruits are not particularly showy, but are highly attractive to pollinators. These trees are either male or female. Female trees must be pollinated to produce fruit. The most ornamental feature of Black Gum is the dark red fall foliage.

Black Gum prefers acidic, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. They can tolerate a wide range of soils, from standing water to drought and rocky soils.

Their wide tolerance to many types of soils affords several landscaping opportunities. They can be used as shade trees in yards or near structures. The root system is deep, rather than spreading, so they can be planted as street trees or along driveways. Black Gum also works well in naturalized areas or flood plains. They are perfect for absorbing excess moisture created by wetlands or natural springs.


Black Gum Characteristics

Black Gum are popular choices in landscaping because of their beautiful fall colors and wide variety of applications. The scarlet leaves of fall make for attractive autumn interest. The flowers and fruits attract pollinating insects and birds that like to eat the dark blue fruit. The fruits are edible, but extremely sour. They can be make into jams or spreads with plenty of sugar.

The roots are deep growing, making Black Gum very difficult to transplant, which is not recommended. These slow-growing trees get quite large, and should be planted in locations with that in mind.

These hardy trees have few serious disease or insect threats. Leaf spot, canker, rust, and scale are all possible, but rarely serious.

USDA Climate Zone
Zones 3 - 9
30.00 - 50.00
20.00 - 30.00'
Bloom Time
May - June
Medium - Wet
Full Sun - Part Shade
Deer Resistant?