Plant bio: Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

Plant bio: Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

written by Kate Wilson

Black Gum has only recently come across my nerdy plant loving radar. And I’m so glad it has, because it is now in my top 5 favorite trees of all time. And here are five reasons why in a very particular order.

1. Black Gum is a native tree species! Meaning; it can put up with our lame alkaline clay soil and is fairly disease and pest free. Oh, and our manic climatic changes here in Ohio. Consider planting variety ‘Wildfire’ on a sunny south or southeast side. More about varieties below…

2. It has amazing fall color. AMAZING!! The straight species has a variety of yellows, oranges and reds. While some cultivars, such as ‘Wildfire’ or ‘Red Rage’ have bright red fall color that would beat the brightness off of any red maple. Yeah, it’s that serious folks.

3. Even when it’s not fall, it’s still has great color. It has oval leaves that are a lovely glossy green. Glossy enough that the shine is noticeable compared to other nearby trees. ‘Wildfire’ is particularly striking with its bright orange/red new growth.

4. It holds it shape well, not only from tree to tree but also with age. Before it even reaches puberty, this tree will have formed its rounded semi-pyramidal shape and just enlarge over the years. It’s not particularly fast growing, but its keeps it shape and isn’t brittle (so it won’t break easily like some of those fast growing trees!)

5. It’s not a “messy” tree. Any fruit that it bears will be eaten up by the birds – it really never seems to drop any. It doesn’t constantly loose small twigs after strong winds. And since its flower isn’t significant when it’s in bloom, it’s even less noticeable when the flower drops.

6. Honey bees love the nectar from Black Gum’s spring flowers! For real, they will go B-A-N-A-N-A-S and you in turn will also go bananas for their delicious honey. I know I said five reasons above, but who could leave out the bees?

Given the shape, glossy green leaves and fall color- this is an impressive specimen tree. It will grow to 40’-60’ adding stately to its long list of features. Its tough adaptable and mess free, making it a low maintenance multi-seasonal plant. If you have the space, please consider this great under used plant in your landscape.

For more information about native trees please check out 5 native flowering trees. The majority also have great fall color. And remember Fall is a great time for planting!

Happy Gardening!

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