Trees of Alabama and the Southeast

Lisa Samuelson, Ph.D.
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Auburn University

Nyssa sylvatica

Leaves are simple, alternate, deciduous, elliptical to obovate with an occasional large tooth or two on the margin. Seedlings or saplings may show many teeth on the margin (see photo below). Leaf scars have 3 bundle scars. Buds are purple-brown often with yellow hair, and with overlapping scales. Branches are often at 90 degree angles to the trunk. Bark is gray to dark brown and furrowed, becoming scaly or blocky on larger stems. Fruit is a blue-black drupe and the stone is only lightly ridged. Form is up to 24 m (80 ft) in height and 1 m (3 ft) in diameter. Blackgum is found on a variety of sites in the eastern U.S. and is shade tolerant. The wood is moderately heavy and used for pulp, veneer and gunstocks. The fruit is important to wildlife and is eaten by many species of birds and mammals. Flowers are also popular with bees. This tree is used in landscaping for its attractive form and red fall color. This species is also grouped in Nyssaceae.

Photographs by Mike Hogan.

To view examples, click on the thumbnail below: