Pyramidal in habit when young, the Black Gum, Sour Gum, Pepperidge or Tupelo becomes a large spreading tree up to 90 feet tall and 45 feet wide in the wild, but usually half that when cultivated. A native of the Eastern United States, Black Gum is typically found in moist rich soils along river banks or in flood plains.
A lovely naturalized tree, it can also be a nice specimen or street tree except in high pollution areas. It is susceptible to leaf spots, rust, scale and leaf miner, but none seriously. Also, it is rumored to be difficult to transplant because of a deep tap root. This can be avoided by using small balled and burlapped or container grown plants.
Small green berries emerge in June and grow to about half an inch or less. Turning bluish-black by September, the attractive fruit is a favorite of wildlife including birds, squirrels, foxes and bears.
Lustrous dark green leaves are 2 to 5 inches long and variable in shape. One of the earliest trees to change colors in the fall, it is also one of the most consistent and beautiful. Black Gum fall foliage may be yellow, orange, red or purple or a combination of them all.