The sour gum tree is a beautiful shade tree with fire-engine red fall foliage. Native to the eastern United States, it is a favorite plant of bees. This water-loving plant is also known as tupelo, pepperidge, and black gum tree. Sour gum grows pyramidally in youth but with maturity forms an irregularly rounded crown. With cultivation, it grows to about 25 feet by age 30. One of the first trees to show color in fall, sour gum tree's glossy green leaves turn scarlet. Its bitter, fleshy, blue-black fruit is favored by bears and birds and follows pollination of female trees. Older trees have dark, blocky-textured bark.
How to grow: Moist, acidic soil is required. This tree needs protection from the wind, and light shade will decrease its spectacular show of autumn leaves. For best performance, transplant in spring, using local stock. Tap-rooted sour gum transplants poorly unless balled-and-burlapped or container-grown are used.
Uses: Sour gum is used as a specimen, shade, or street tree and is also naturalized or used in mass plantings.
Scientific name: Nyssa sylvatica