As the heat of summer begins to loosen its grip and we look forward to more comfortable fall temperatures, we start to see changes in the landscape, in preparation for winter. Fortunately, before winter sinks in we get to experience the brilliant colors of fall. One tree that is rarely used, yet displays brilliant fall color is the black gum.
Black gum, Nyssa sylvatica, does not always stand out during the spring and summer months, but appears to come to life once autumn arrives. As the dark green, oval-shaped leaves of the black gum begin to change, these 2-6 inch leaves exhibit an array of colors –yellow, orange, purple, and most often dark red or scarlet. This straight-trunked tree can grow to a mature height of about 50 feet tall, and it grows best when planted in full sun. Although fall is black gum’s showiest season, during spring the small, greenish-white flowers are a treat for bees. The black gum generally has a medium growth rate, but when grown in its preferred wet conditions or with regular watering, its growth rate may accelerate.
If you have space for a tree with a spread of 20-30 feet and desire one that will provide great shade for your home, then look no further than the black gum. Several specimens are planted around town through the Foster-A-Tree program, in the Kelly medians between Danforth and Covell, and in the Margaret Annis Boys Centennial Arboretum, located at the south end of Bickham-Rudkin Park.