Plant Index


Nyssa sylvatica

Nyssa sylvatica Marshall

black gum, blackgum, pepperidge, sour gum, black tupelo

Synonym(s): Nyssa sylvatica var. caroliniana, Nyssa sylvatica var. dilatata, Nyssa sylvatica var. typica
Cultivar(s): Wildfire
Nyssa sylvatica (Black Gum)
Image ID: 4201
Image by: Hardin, J.W.
Image Collection: Herbarium Collection


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Nyssa sylvatica
Include in WOTAS: 0
Publish to Web: 1
Last Modified: 2019-12-01


Cult_id Cultivar_name Action
1731 Wildfire View


GENUS SUMMARY: A genus of about 8-10 species, trees and shrubs, of e. North America, e. Asia, se. Asia, and Central America. The only other members of the genus are 2-4 e. and se. Asian species and a single species of Costa Rica (Hammel & Zamora 1990, Wen & Stuessy 1993).
GENUS IDENTIFICATION: Identification notes: Nyssa sylvatica is often mistaken (especially as seedlings, saplings, or fire-sprouts) for Diospyros virginiana, because of their similar, alternate, glossy-green, acuminate leaves. Nyssa can be distinguished by its three vascular bundle scars per leaf scar (vs. one Diospyros), leaves often with a few irregular teeth (vs. never toothed), leaves pale to medium green beneath (vs whitish-green beneath), leaves lacking reddish to dark glands on the midrib above and the petiole (vs. present), and leaves glabrous or nearly so below (vs. glabrate to tomentose with curly hairs) (McKenney 1967).
GENUS REFERENCES: Burckhalter (1992)=Z; Wen & Stuessy (1993)=Y; Eyde (1966)=X; Ward (2008b)=V.


FAMILY AUTHORITY: A.L. de Jussieu ex Dumortier 1829
FAMILY COMMON: Tupelo Family
FAMILY SUMMARY: A family of 5 genera and 22 species, trees and shrubs, of e. Asia, se. Asia, e. North America, and Central America. The circumscription and recognition of this family has been controversial; Nyssaceae has sometimes been included in a broadly circumscribed Cornaceae, but this appears to be phylogenetically incorrect (Xiang et al. 2002).
FAMILY REFERENCE: Xiang et al. (2002).


STEMS: Pith continuous or diaphragmed. Young twigs (1-year-old or less) brown or green or orange or reddish-brown, glabrous or glabrate or pubescent. Twigs (2–4 years old) glabrous. Leaf scars crescent-shaped or half-round or heart-shaped or triangular, bundle scars 3 per leaf scar, stipule scars absent. Bark of mature trunks checkered or furrowed or ridged. Buds axillary or superposed or terminal, brown or red or reddish-brown, 3–6 mm long, ovoid, blunt or sharp, pubescent, bud scales imbricate.
LEAVES: Leaves deciduous, simple, petiolate, alternate, (2.5–)5–15 cm long, (1.3–)2.5–10 cm wide, oblanceloate or obovate or oval or ovate, leaf margins entire or dentate, leaf apices acuminate or acute or obtuse, leaf bases cuneate or rounded. Leaf upper surface green, glabrous or glabrate. Leaf lower surface green, glabrous or glabrate or pubescent or with tufts in vein axils, villous. Leaf venation pinnate. Petioles (0.6–)1–2.5(–3.8) cm long, glabrous or pubescent, winged. Stipules absent.
INFLORESCENCE: Inflorescences axillary, fascicles or heads or racemes or flowers solitary or simple umbels, flowers sessile or stalked.
FLOWERS: Flowers bisexual or unisexual or pistillate or staminate, epigynous. Perianth. Sepals 5 per flower. Petals 5 per flower, spreading or ascending, green or white, oblong or ovate, petal apices acute or rounded, caducous. Androecium. Stamens 5–12 per flower. Gynoecium. Ovaries inferior, pistils 1 per flower. Gynoecium syncarpous, 2 carpels per flower, styles 1 per pistil, styles 1.5–3.5 mm long, placentation apical. Hypanthia present.
FRUITS: Fruits drupes, (0.7–)1–1.5 cm long, black or blue, fruit maturation 1 years.
COMMENTS: Leaves often crowded at the ends of branchlets; branches perpendicular to the trunk.
HEIGHT: 60 plus feet

DURATION: Perennial


BLOOM TIME: March or April or May or June.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
x x x x x

BLOOM COLOR: Petals green or white.
White Red Pink Orange Yellow Green Blue Lavender Purple Violet Brown Not Applicable
x x


HABITAT TYPE: Dry forests, Moist forests, Woods margins
NATIVE RANGE: eastern United States

Plant Sale Text: Black-gum is one of our most adaptable SE trees, growing on dry slopes and low, moist forests. Though its leaves are somewhat nondescript, its has a curious way of branching that makes it easily identifiable in the field; nearly all of its branches are borne at exactly 90 degree angles from the trunk of the tree. The best thing about Black-gum is its fall color. Its leaves turn dark red before any other species have started changing. Its fruits are an important source of food to birds migrating in the fall.

Bloom Table Text:

NCBG Location:

Cultural Notes:

SOIL MOISTURE: Dry, Average, Moist/Wet
LIGHT EXPOSURE: Sun, Part Shade, Shade
WILDLIFE VALUE: Bee Friendly, Bird Friendly


Coll_id Project Collection date Collector Action
138 HORT 2005-12-01 Gocke View
186 HORT 2008-12-12 MacIntyre View
2454 HORT 2021-02-26 Stern View


acc_id acc_num acc_dt coll_id Action
137 2010-0050 2010-11-16 138 View
186 2008-0358 2019-07-05 186 View
933 1985-0622 View
1983 1986-1774 View
2835 1987-0342 View
3792 1991-0487 View
4558 1992-0714 View
4888 1995-0006 View
5710 1995-0836 View
6207 1995-1339 View
8575 2006-0154 2006-08-11 View
8597 2006-0176 2006-08-11 View
8767 2007-0036 2007-03-14 View
8778 2007-0048 2007-03-14 View
8808 2007-0078 2007-03-13 View
9363 2021-0024 2021-03-29 2454 View


plt_num acc_id loc_num pers_num inst_dt Action
271 137 32 NCBG staff 2011-03-03 View
363 186 174 MacIntyre 2008-12-12 View
1729 933 198 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
3171 1983 8 NCBG staff 1986-12-23 View
3172 1983 11 NCBG staff 1986-12-23 View
3173 1983 54 NCBG staff 1986-12-23 View
3174 1983 56 NCBG staff 1986-12-23 View
3175 1983 77 NCBG staff 1986-12-23 View
3176 1983 79 NCBG staff 1986-12-23 View
3177 1983 241 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
4716 2835 8 NCBG staff 1985-01-08 View
4717 2835 8 NCBG staff 1985-01-08 View
6100 3792 52 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
6101 3792 199 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
6887 4558 200 NCBG staff 1993-03-01 View
7306 4888 202 NCBG staff 1992-01-01 View
8224 5710 204 NCBG staff 1993-01-01 View
8862 6207 2 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
11765 8575 205 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
11787 8597 205 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
12014 8767 71 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
12030 8778 69 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
12066 8808 70 NCBG staff 0000-00-00 View
12570 9363 237 Stern 2021-03-05 View
13056 0 25 Liloia 0000-00-00 View


USDA Common Name: Blackgum
Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Distribution: USA (AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV), CAN (ON)
Duration: Perennial
Growth Habit: Tree



This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2016 National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.3 (Lichvar, R.W., D.L. Banks, W.N. Kirchner, and N.C. Melvin. 2016. The National Wetland Plant List: 2016 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2016-30: 1-17. Published 28 April 2016. ISSN 2153 733X). Regions: AGCP-Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, AK-Alaska, AW-Arid West, CB-Caribbean, EMP-Eastern Mountains and Piedmont, GP-Great Plains, HI-Hawaii, MW-Midwest, NCNE-Northcentral and Northeast, WMCV-Western Mountains, Valleys & Coast


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Nyssa sylvatica
COMMON NAME: Sour Gum, Black Gum, Pepperidge
SYNONYMY: [= G, K, Pa, S, V, Va, WV, Z; = N. sylvatica var. sylvatica - C, GW, RAB, WH3, X, Y; > N. sylvatica var. sylvatica - F; > N. sylvatica var. dilatata Fernald - F; > N. sylvatica var. caroliniana (Poiret) Fernald - F]
PHENOLOGY: Apr-Jun; Aug-Oct.
HABITAT: Dry or mesic upland forests, less commonly in bottomlands, pine savannas, or upland depressions, where occasionally inundated briefly.
COMMENTS: S. ME west to MI and se. WI, south to c. peninsular FL, west to e. TX and e. OK. The status of varieties recognized by previous authors (such as Fernald 1950) needs reassessment; N. sylvatica is quite variable in morphology and ecology, at least some of the morphologic variation correlated with geography and ecology, but not so far readily tractable taxonomically. In the Mountains of our area, N. sylvatica is typically found in dry woodlands, such as pine-oak/heath, with xerophytic species such as Pinus virginiana and Quercus montana. In the outer Coastal Plain of the Carolinas, a swamp variant of N. sylvatica often occurs in wet savannas with Pinus serotina, where often mistaken (because of the wetland habitat and some superficial similarities) for N. biflora. The leaves turn a brilliant orange-red in fall (often a few on any tree coloring prematurely in Jul or Aug).
RANGE MAP: Nyssa sylvatica.png

Key to Map Symbols
ABOUT FAMILY (Weakley Flora)
Nyssaceae A.L. de Jussieu ex Dumortier 1829 (Tupelo Family)
SUMMARY: A family of 5 genera and 22 species, trees and shrubs, of e. Asia, se. Asia, e. North America, and Central America. The circumscription and recognition of this family has been controversial; Nyssaceae has sometimes been included in a broadly circumscribed Cornaceae, but this appears to be phylogenetically incorrect (Xiang et al. 2002).
REFERENCE: Xiang et al. (2002).
ABOUT GENUS (Weakley Flora)
Nyssa L. (Tupelo)
SUMMARY: A genus of about 8-10 species, trees and shrubs, of e. North America, e. Asia, se. Asia, and Central America. The only other members of the genus are 2-4 e. and se. Asian species and a single species of Costa Rica (Hammel & Zamora 1990, Wen & Stuessy 1993).
REFERENCE: Burckhalter (1992)=Z; Wen & Stuessy (1993)=Y; Eyde (1966)=X; Ward (2008b)=V.


SERNEC: Find Nyssa sylvatica in Southeast Regional Network of Experts and Collections (if available)
UNC SERNEC: Find Nyssa sylvatica in University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium - Southeast Regional Network of Experts and Collections (if available)


USDA: Find Nyssa sylvatica in USDA Plants
NPIN: Find Nyssa sylvatica in NPIN Database
FNA: Find Nyssa sylvatica in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Nyssa sylvatica


ID IMAGE: 4201 - Primary Image FloraQuest Plant Detail Page (Landscape Preferred)
ID IMAGE1: 4196 - Primary Image WOTAS
ID IMAGE2: 15845 - Secondary Image WOTAS
ID IMAGE3: 56096 - Primary Image Plant Sale Sign (Landscape Only)
ID IMAGE4: 0 - Primary Image New Plant Sale Label (Portrait Only)

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