Landowner Fact Sheets

blackgum Nyssa sylvatica play

Blackgum is a common deciduous species of eastern forests, capable of growing on a wide variety of sites. It is often found in an intermediate or understory position. Blackgum is valued for its potential to provide useful wood and wildlife sustenance.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Blackgum is not likely to be deliberately regenerated, although its utility for wildlife purposes may lead to its encouragement. Clearcut, shelterwood, and group selection methods all work well.

Blackgum is found on many different sites, including moist bottomlands and very dry uplands.


A medium sized tree reaching up to 80 feet tall on moist sites, generally much shorter in the mountains. On younger trees the branches often stand at right angles to the trunk with numerous short, curled spur shoots present.

Timber Value
Blackgum's light, uniformly textured wood makes good containers, crossties, pallets, lumber, flooring, paper pulp, rollers in glass factories, gunstocks, and occasionally veneer.

Wildlife Value
Blackgum fruits are a good source of crude fat, fiber, phosphorous, calcium, and are consumed by many species. Young sprouts are browsed by deer. Cavities are common in blackgums, making the tree useful for dens and nesting. Flowers provide nectar for bees and other insects.
Attracts bees, birds, deer, small mammals

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Blackgum can tolerate a very wide variety of sites, from flooded swamps to dry shales. It grows slowly and can live for a long time - the oldest known specimen is nearly 700 years old. Blackgum's shiny leaves are amongst the first to break bud in the spring, and some of the first to turn brilliant red in the fall. The intense fall foliage lends ornamental value.

Latin Meaning
Nyssa: Greek "Nysa" - a water nymph / sylvatica: of the woods - Latin "silva" (forest)

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.