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Video:How to Identify a Blackgum Tree

with Alexis Alvey

The black gum tree is fruiting tree that produces a stunning fall foliage. Want to identify this tree on your own? Get all the facts on how to identify black gum trees in this forestry video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Identify a Blackgum Tree

Hi, I'm Alexis Alvey, nursery and landscape specialist and certified arborist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Today I'm going to share some information about the black gum tree.

Black Gum Tree Facts

The black gum tree is naturally distributed throughout most of the eastern half of the United States. It grows best on well-drained, light-textured, acidic soils with significant moisture, although it can be found in a variety of both upland and lowland habitats and soils. In the woods, it is shade tolerant. It is a medium to large-sized tree that typically grows to 30-50 feet in height.

The black gum is also known as the black tupelo. Sometimes the names sour gum and pepperidge are also used. The scientific name is Nyssa sylvatica.

Identifying Black Gum Tree Leaves

Black gum typically has dark grayish-brown or almost black bark that often develops thick ridges with age that form an irregular block-like pattern. The leaves of black gum are oval-shaped and are 3-6 inches long, by 1 ½ -3 inches wide, with smooth edges.  The leaves are arranged alternately on the branches. During the growing season, the leaves are a lustrous dark green. Black gum has excellent fall color, which ranges from bright scarlet to rich maroon.

Black gum naturally forms a taproot and has a course root system. Taproots grow vertically downward and sprout smaller roots laterally. The black gum tree produces fruit which ripens in the fall.

Fruit From Black Gum Trees

The fruit is an oblong drupe which is about half an inch long and is bluish-black in color. The fruits of black gum are a good food source for wildlife – they are high in fat, fiber, and nutrients and are eaten by many birds and animals, including black bears, foxes, wood ducks, wild turkeys, robins, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, brown thrashers, thrushes, and flickers.

Black Gum Tree Wood

The wood of black gum can be used in industry to produce veneer logs, containers, crossties, and pallets. It can also be used as a honey tree and can be planted as an ornamental in the landscape.

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