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Black TupeloNyssa sylvatica

  • Black Tupelo - Nyssa sylvatica
  • Black Tupelo - Nyssa sylvatica
  • Black Tupelo - Nyssa sylvatica
  • Black Tupelo - Nyssa sylvatica
  • Black Tupelo Nyssa sylvatica
One of the most attractive native trees around. Summer leaves are a dark green with a high-gloss appearance, but the most spectacular part of this tree is the fall foliage with many shades of yellow, orange, bright red, purple or scarlet that may appear on the same branch. Bark matures to medium gray and resembles alligator hide. Fruit is bluish-black and is loved by many birds. Makes a strong specimen tree. Grows 30'-50' high, with a 20'-30' spread. Prefers well-drained, acid soils, and full sun to partial shade.

Hardiness Zones

The black tupelo can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 4–9. View Map

Tree Type

Mature Size

The black tupelo grows to a height of 30–50' and a spread of 20–30' at maturity.

Growth Speed Slow to Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12" to 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The black tupelo grows well in in acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam and well-drained soils.


This tree:
  • Provides stunning fall color, bringing many shades of yellow, orange, bright red, purple and scarlet.
  • Develops bark that furrows with age, resembling alligator hide on old trunks.
  • Produces interesting greenish-white flowers that resemble a petal-less spirea.
  • Features alternate, simple leaves 3–6" in length with an ovate, obovate or elliptical shape that are extremely glossy and dark green in the summer.
  • Yields small, bluish-black fruit that ripens in late September and early October, eaten by many species of birds and mammals.
  • Grows in an oval shape.

Wildlife Value

The fruit of the black tupelo attracts many birds and wildlife. It also provides nutrition for bees in early to late spring.


A tree of many monikers, the black tupelo is also known in various areas as a gum tree, sour gum, bowl gum, yellow gum or tupelo gum. Still others call it beetlebung, stinkwood, wild peartree or pepperidge.

When combined with the several other tupelo species, these trees have the distinction of being favorites with honey producers. The resulting honey is light and mild-tasting, fetching a high price, especially in Florida where it is a million dollar business annually.