often called black tupelo, grows throughout the state in many
types of soils and conditions of soil moisture. Occasionally
in the lowlands, it grows along swamp margins. In the hills
and mountains, it grows on dry slopes with oaks and hickories.
The slender limbs grow at right angles to the trunk. Blackgum
leaves are alternate, roughly oval with short, blunt points.
The leaves are smooth-margined, 2 to 5 inches long and 1/2 to
3 inches wide. In early autumn, the leaves turn bright scarlet,
often making the first showy display of fall colors in southeastern
The fruit is round, dark blue, about 1/2 inch in diameter and
is clustered on stalks up to 1 1/2 inches long. Thin, bitter-smelling
flesh surrounds the,-mail, ribbed seed. The bark on younger
trees is furrowed between flat ridges and gradually develops
into quadrangular block~ that are dense, hard and nearly black
-- much like the bark of persimmon.
Blackgum usually is a medium-sized tree, 30 to 40 feet tall
and 1 to 2 feet in diameter. It occasionally reaches 100 feet
in height and 4 to 5 feet in diameter. In open stands, the crown
often is flat and spreading; in dense stands, it is narrow and
The wood is very tough, cross-grained, hard to work and warps
easily. It is used for crate and basket veneers, crossties,
rough floors andpulpwood.
A variety of blackgum, the swamp tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica van
biflora) is the true swamp species, often growing with cypress
in year-round swamps. It is similar to blackgum, but its leaves
are narrower and its seed is more deeply ridged.