Black Tupelo Tree Pros and Cons, Identification, Problems, Bark

| May 28, 2023

The black tupelo, or Nyssa sylvatica, is a native plant that can be found across the Eastern United States and throughout the state of Ohio, except for the state’s driest counties in the northwest. This tree, which goes by several other names, including black gum, sour gum, and Pepperidge, is well-known for the beauty of its glossy dark green summer leaves and vibrant fall foliage colors. 

The genus Nyssa has ten different species of tupelo trees. There are five different species native to North America, but the black gum tree, sometimes known as the black tupelo tree, is by far the most common and widely planted kind. Blackgum is cultivated for its exquisite foliage, which is a dark, lustrous green during the spring and summer and an explosion of color in the fall. The autumn foliage of black gum trees is a combination of scarlet, purple, yellow, and orange, with all of these hues sometimes appearing on a single branch.

Black Tupelo Tree Pros and Cons

The Black Tupelo tree is considered to be a deciduous tree of medium size with moderate growth because it grows approximately twelve inches (or Thirty centimeters) per year. Black tupelo trees are typically planted as ornamental shade or specimen trees in large gardens and parks. The elegant conical shape of this tree makes it a sight to behold. However, it transforms into one of autumn’s most stunning trees.

The black tupelo is considered to be a member of the “brilliant group” of autumn trees recognized for their vibrant foliage. The black tupelo’s vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows are considered more beautiful than those of the maple, sweet gum, dogwood, and sassafras. 

Several minor parasites and diseases affect black tupelo, with black leaf spots being the most notable. Stunting of growth and chlorosis of leaves occurs when this species is planted in high pH (alkaline) soils, however, this species thrives with a medium growth rate when planted in acidic, moist, well-drained soils. 

Black Tupelo Tree Pros and Cons, Identification, Problems, Bark

Black Tupelo Tree Identification

The black tupelo tree, or Nyssa sylvatica, is a flowering tree of the family Nyssaceae. There are horizontally spreading branches coming off the main stem of a black tupelo tree, giving the tree a widely conical habit. The black tupelo can be easily identified by its glossy, dark green leaves, pyramidal shape, tiny white blooms, and dark black delicious fruits.

Black tupelo trees are sometimes known as black gum trees or sour gum trees. The fall foliage of black tupelo trees, which can turn orange, red, yellow, or purple, is also the most remarkable characteristic of these trees.

Black Tupelo Tree Problems

Black tupelo trees are highly disease resistant since they flourish in damp soil and are not susceptible to root rot as rapidly as other ornamental trees. Foliar diseases, which are caused by fungal infections, can however cause black tupelo leaves to become yellow, and curl up, certain fungal infections.

The black tupelo is susceptible to Verticillium wilt, a fungal disease of the soil that attacks the tree’s root system. The disease’s progression can lead to yellowing or stunting of the leaves, which can cause them to drop prematurely. 

Black tupelo trees are susceptible to Phytophthora because the fungus-like organisms that cause the disease thrive in moist soils. This disease can cause foliage to wilt and display symptoms of water stress. If phytophthora symptoms are observed, it is best to enhance drainage and allow roots to dry out. 

Fusarium wilt is like verticillium wilt in that it makes the leaves turn yellow, shrink, and die. Extreme infections can cause branch dieback, which can ultimately destroy an otherwise healthy tree. The easiest way to maintain a healthy tree is to get rid of all the dead wood and leaves.

Black Tupelo Tree Bark

Young black tupelo trees possess bark that is smooth and reddish-brown. As a tree age, its bark takes on a unique scaly appearance and deep furrows. The black tupelo is distinguished by its bark, which resembles alligator skin and is medium-gray to reddish.

Another distinguishing feature of black tupelo trees is their vibrant reddish twigs and stems. The thin twigs have skin that is grayish in hue and reddish-brown in color. In addition, a red pigment found in the leaf branches contributes to the tree’s fall foliage color.

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