Blackgum is a special tree – from its brilliant fall foliage to its inconspicuous spring flowers that bees use to make a sweet honey.
Nyssa sylvatica also attracts beetles and wasps and, unlike many hardwoods that depend on wind for pollination, Tupelo has High Pollinator Values. Also a larval host to dozens of moth species, Tupelo is the sole host of the striking Hebrew Moth.
In late summer Tupelo’s blue-black fruits ripen as its leaves turn shades of scarlet, orange and crimson. Birds relish these fruits, and in turn the tree relies on the birds to spread its seeds about.
Tupelo has an oval form and branches that extend horizontally from a strong central leader. It grows naturally in low woods and swamps and can grow in standing water, although it adapts to drier sites. Female trees need a male pollinator for fruit.
Consider Tupelo if you have a low area in your landscape that perhaps floods on occasion, and if you are looking for a medium-sized tree with attractive foliage that is among the first to turn color as fall approaches.
Be sure to place Tupelo in a good location as it does not like to be transplanted.
- Latin: Nyssa sylvatica
- Current Height: 5 to 8 feet
- Mature Height: 30-60 feet; 20-30-foot spread
- Light: Full sun to part shade
- Soil: Medium to wet (adaptable)
- Growth rate: 6 to 14 inches per year
- Bloom: Greenish-white, spring (nectar for bees)
- Fruit: Dark-blue summer (edible but sour)
- Foliage: Deciduous, brilliant fall colors
- Resistance: Clay, wet, black walnut
- More information and native range here