Black Tupelo

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
Also known as the blackgum, the black tupelo is a slow-growing deciduous tree known for its vibrant autumn leaves and highly-sought after honey. Black tupelos are successful at attracting pollinators like bees to their flowers and birds and small mammals to their fruits. Black tupelos are native to Connecticut and can be found anywhere from southern Ontario to Mexico.
Maya Li and Sawan Garde
Collected Data
Date of tree entry: 
10.00 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.26 m

This bark shows a pattern of vertical cracks. The bark on this black tupelo is more gray, although the bark of black tupelos can range from gray to brown to black. Black tupelos have deeply ridged bark said to resemble alligator skin.
Twigs & branches
Branches are held around 90 degrees to the main stem in a black tupelo.
The foliage of the black tupelo grows in an oval shape. The simple, obovate, smooth leaves are arranged in an alternating pattern on branches. In the summer, the leaves are shiny and dark green, and in the fall, the leaves ranges in vibrant colors from scarlet red to orange to purple.
Reproductive Structures
Black tupelos are dioecious. They produce greenish-white flowers.
Female black tupelo trees grow small edible drupes that start as green and ripen to bluish black, round to oval, mature fruits. Although we may find the fruits sour, birds and small mammals enjoy them.
  • Black tupelo in summer
  • Black tupelo in fall
Natural range of distribution: 
Black tupelos are native to Connecticut. They are naturally found from southern Ontario to the Central and Eastern United States, as well as in Mexico. They can be found in a variety of environments, from dry upland forests to hills and mountains to bottomlands, savannas, swamp margins, and flooded upland depressions.
Origin, history, and uses: 

The black tupelo’s scientific name is Nyssa sylvatica. Nyssa refers to a water nymph in Greek mythology, and sylvatica means “of the woods.” The black tupelo goes by many names, like the gum tree, sour gum, bowl gum, yellow gum, beetelbung, stinkwood, wild peartree, or pepperidge, to name a few. The honey produced by tupelos is highly sought after, not only by bees, but also by humans to sell at a high price. The wood from a black tupelo is hard to work with because it is rough, cross-grained, and warps easily. Therefore, it is often used for crates, cross ties, rough floors, and pulpwood. The young sprouts of black tupelos are eaten by white-tailed deer, the fruits are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, black bears, foxes, raccoons, and opposums. The hollows formed in the tree can be home to small animals like reptiles, tree frogs, and bats. The flowers are a desirable source of nectar for bees.Black tupelos are often used as ornamental trees due to their consistently colorful leaves in autumn, though black tupelos should not be transplanted as they have a long taproot that makes them difficult to uproot. 

Black tupelo trees are deciduous. The black tupelo blooms in late spring to summer, displays foliage in spring, summer, and fall, and fruits in late summer to fall.
Media and Arts

The Gum Tree Sticks with You


Extending its long taproot into the ground

The gum tree is stuck with you

Not to be transplanted

Permanently in your view


With its ridged dark bark

And simple obovate leaves

Foliage in an oval

And green flowers it conceives


Prepare to be friends

With animals big and small

The thrush, the raccoon, the bee

Your gum tree is a gift to them all


You may not like the drupes

Sour and bitter you may find

But the honey is a hot commodity

So try to keep that in mind


Unassuming is your tree

Now that it is spring

But wait until next autumn

And colorful leaves your tree will bring


The gum tree is stuck with you

But that isn’t so bad

Beautifying the landscape and feeding the wildlife

There are worse fates to be had