Black gum in October

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I’m glad we took Stacy Borden’s advice in 2005 and planted a black gum, or tupelo tree, (Nyssa sylvatica) in the backyard. I like it for several reasons, however I especially like its consistent fall color.

two images of a young nyssa sylvatica tree with brilliant color

Watching the leaves turn to shades of brilliant reds has become an October highlight for us. The beautiful foliage can look quite different depending on lighting – the time of day, whether it is sunny or cloudy, etc. I find it challenging, if not impossible, to capture with the camera what my eyes see. This is an early-morning image when the light was coming from behind the tree, creating a stained-glass effect.

Nyssa sylvatica tree with brilliant red leaves

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed an article about black gums in the summer newsletter of the Kentucky Native Plant Society (page 4). Medium-sized trees, they grow well in wet or dry areas and in full sun or partial shade. They have attractive summer foliage and spectacular autumn color. Bees use the pollen from flowers for honey, and birds enjoy the berries in autumn. The more I learn about these trees, the more I respect and appreciate them. I’m glad to have one in our backyard. What is your favorite fall tree?

13 thoughts on “Black gum in October”

  1. Gorgeous!

    Thanks Betty…..I’m adding that tree to my “wish list” when we move to our retirement home in next couple of years.

  2. Hi Betty, we just put in a little maple tree this fall. It is rather scraggly and small and it lost it’s few red leaves shortly after we planted it. I hope it makes it through the winter, we don’t have your gardening or landscaping skills! If it makes it, however, I think it will be quite a beauty, I love the maples.

    1. Keli, it would not seem like autumn to me without some maple tress around.I hope your little one grows into a big beauty. I expect it will appreciate a drink now and then before the ground freezes.

  3. The honey is prized, the CO-OP sometimes has Tupelo honey. I love the bright yellow leaves of the gingko tree. There is a lovely one on my street. But the Tupelo colors sure look bright. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Darlene, I’ve read that the honey is prized by many. Don’t think I’ve ever tasted it and I’d like to try it. Thanks for letting me know that the CO-OP sometimes has it. I agree with you as to the beautiful yellow of ginko leaves. I’m also fascinated by their shape and texture.

  4. I stumbled upon this post via Google while searching for information on Blackgum Tupelo trees. I heard of them a couple of years ago, but I was shocked to find one at my local garden center a few days ago. Needless to say, it is now in my possession.

    Mine is around 8 feet tall and in a plastic container. I read online that container-grown Tupelos might be a little more difficult to get established than small bare-root trees, so I am hoping this particular tree doesn’t disappoint.

    Can you give me any additional information on your beautiful tree? How big was it when you planted it? What kind of container did it come in (plastic, burlap, etc.)? Does it take forever to grow?


    1. Glad to know you are the proud owner of a tupelo tree, Brian. Ours is now almost eight years old – between 30-40 feet tall (according to my husband) and in my estimation a beautiful medium sized tree. Ours was planted from burlap – It was about 1.5 inches in diameter. It has grown at a steady rate – and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Hope a similar experience for you.

      1. Wow! I am very impressed with the growth rate of your tree! I was expecting this tree to be a slow grower, but am hopeful that mine will perform as well as yours since I am also in Kentucky.

        Thanks so much for the info! You have a very nice blog. =)

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