Black Gum Tree-Nyssa sylvatica is part of the Tupelo family
Black Gum-Nyssa sylvatica, also known as Black Tupelo, is part of the Tupelo family (Nyssaceae). It is a tree that grows slowly or at a medium rate and prefers moist, rich, silty loam, sandy, acidic, well-draining soil types. The tree requires full sun and partial shade, getting at least 4 hours of unfiltered, direct sunlight, and will grow anywhere from 30 to 50 feet tall and a width of 20 to 30 feet. Rarely will a wild Black Gum grow to 100' in height and is winter hardy in Zones 4-9. The leaves of Black Gum are varied in color, and especially so in autumn. The leaves can vary in color from orange, yellow, purple, or red in the fall. There are flowers, but they are small, and the berries, which are blue/black, are enjoyed by wildlife. The bark of Black Gum is in six-sided plates, which makes it unique and thick. The bark is suitable for making tool handles, but the tree has a twisted grain, so it cannot be split.
Black Gum is hardy in zones 4 through 9
What is probably little known about the Black Gum is that it is one of the favorite trees, when with other tupelo types of trees, it produces honey that is a favorite among honey producers. In addition to wildlife enjoying the berries, bees are provided with food from the Black Gum early to late spring. The honey is mild-tasting and light (especially in Florida, which does a million dollars annually). Old Black Gum trees that have decayed are hollow and then cut down, creating smaller sections used for beehives.
If someone is interested in having Black Gum as a tree in their landscape, it's best to buy a colorful seedling from a trusted local source. Black Gum trees have a hard time reproducing vegetatively, so there have not been many selections created. Ensure that you have a good location, suitable soil, and the correct zone before planting a Black Gum.