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By Jackie Carroll
Sweetgum trees look spectacular in fall and the autumn show continues into early winter. They make wonderful landscape specimens. Learn how to grow sweetgums in this article.
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The black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) is a medium-size deciduous tree (it drops its leaves in the fall) with a slow growth rate, gaining only around 1 to 2 feet per year. It generally grows in a rounded shape with a straight trunk, and its bark is said to look like alligator skin. The leaves vary in shape and stretch from around 3 to 6 inches long. They change from a dark glossy green to brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple in the fall. Plus, tiny flowers in the spring give way to small dark blue fruits that are edible but sour, though they tend to attract birds and other wildlife. This tree is best planted in the spring.
|Botanical Name||Nyssa sylvatica|
|Common Names||Black gum tree, tupelo, black tupelo, sour gum tree, pepperidge|
|Mature Size||30-50 ft. tall, 20-30 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||3-9 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America|
Virtues: We love 'Slender Silhouette' American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’) for its very narrow shape. This tall, thin tree is perfect for tight spaces, small gardens or as a striking vertical accent. Some see American sweetgums as a nuisance for the fruit ( a spiky seed-filled ball) that they drop. 'Slender Silhouette' produces only a little fruit, and it falls in a small area since the tree is so narrow. Nice fall color. Quick to grow.
Common name: 'Slender Silhouette' American sweetgum
Botanical name:Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’
Foliage: Deciduous, star-shaped. Dark green in summer, turning yellow to deep red in fall.
Flower: Inconspicuous white flowers in spring. Seed-filled, spiky-textured balls develop and drop in the fall, but not in great quantity.
Habit: Fastigiate, or columnar, deciduous tree growing 35 to 50 feet tall and just 4 feet wide. Bark develops deep furrows as the tree matures.
Season: Year-round for shape. Fall for colorful foliage. Furrowed bark lends winter interest.
Origin: Selection of American sweetgum. 'Slender Sihlouette' was introduced by Don Shadow of Shadow Nursery, who found the 60-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide original growing nearby a railroad track. The species is native to low, moist woods and coastal plains of roughly the eastern half of North America, south of New England, all the way into Central America.