An individual instance of Nyssa sylvatica (blackgum)
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Nyssa sylvatica Marsh., blackgum, grows from Maine west to New York, extreme southern Ontario, central Michigan, Illinois, central Missouri, and south to central Florida. It is a medium- to large-sized tree, frequently 60 to 80 ft high and 3 to 4 ft in diameter; it typically has dense foliage with a conical crown on a straight trunk.  The simple, alternate leaves are leathery, and densely clustered at the branchlets.  The small greenish white flowers are borne singly or in clusters.  The bark is reddish brown and broken into deep irregular ridges and diamond-shaped plates. 


Erosion Control: Reestablishes well in erosion prone areas like burned over forest, abandoned fields, rolling hills and cold mountain swamps.

Wildlife: Black bears, foxes, wood ducks, wild turkeys, robins, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, brown thrashers, thrushes, flickers, and starlings frequently eat the fruit, while white-tailed deer and beavers browse the twigs, foliage and young sprouts. Additionally, provides cavity and nesting sites for a variety of birds and mammals and a good honey tree.

Timber: Its wood is used for light, nonsplitting woodwork such as in docks and wharves; veneer, containers, crossties and pallets.

Recreation and Beautification: Excellent ornamental plant for its straight trunk, shapely crown and attractive autumn foliage.

Adaptation and Distribution

It is adapted to a wide variety of sites, from the creek bottoms of the southern Coastal Plain to altitudes of 3,000 feet in North Carolina.  It grows best on well-drained, light-textured soils on the low ridges of second bottoms and on the high flats of silty alluvium.  It will tolerate brief spring flooding on alluvial sites and is common on the relatively dry upper and middle slopes in the Appalachian Mountains. On the drier uplands, it grows best on the loams and clay loams. It is well adapted to fire. Older trees have thick bark and relatively high moisture content.  Although aboveground portions of young trees are top-killed by fire, it typically survives by sprouting from the root crown or caudex.


Blackgum is usually found with a mix of other species including black cherry (Prunus serotina), dogwood (Cornus florida), hickory (Carya spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), and yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), it is shade tolerant and seldom grows as dominant tree but it usually grows in the intermediate crown class on most sites.  At the time of disturbance large numbers of new seedlings can become established.


USDA NRCS Plant Materials Program (2002).  Plant fact sheet for blackgum (nyssa sylvatica).     Retrieved from



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Nyssa sylvatica


sec. Tennessee Flora 2014

common name: blackgum
family: Cornaceae
Identified 2016-03-13 by Patrick Phoebus


McFarland Photography Building, MTSU Boulevard, Rutherford County, Tennessee, US
Click on these geocoordinates to load a map showing the location: 35.8492°, -86.3626°
Coordinate uncertainty about: 10 m.
Altitude: 190 m.

Location calculated as average of its images' coordinates.

Occurrences were recorded for this particular organism on the following dates:

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whole tree (or vine) - general
whole tree (or vine) - winter
bark - unspecified
bark - of a medium tree or large branch
leaf - showing orientation on twig

Tennessee Flora 2014 =

Tennessee Flora Committee, 2014. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee (editors: E. W. Chester, B. E. Wofford, J. Shaw, D. Estes, and D. H. Webb). The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN, US.

Metadata last modified: 2019-10-16T22:24:42.018-05:00
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