Many people in Northeast Florida yearn for a tree that will give them consistent fall color. The Blackgum tree is a very underutilized native tree that will please you with bright green leaves in the summer that change to red in the first few weeks of fall.
The leaves are simple, deciduous, oblong and alternately arranged on the stem. The growth is relatively slow, but can be pushed with judicious use of fertilization. The tree can reach a mature height of 65-75 feet. The non-descript, white flowers form as the leaves appear in the spring.
While these flowers may not seem spectacular to us, they are highly prized as a source for tupelo honey. The fruit is a drupe that matures in the early fall as a 1/2 inch fleshy blue fruit that is consumed by squirrels and migrating birds.
The Blackgum tree can be found growing naturally in the hardwood swamps and bottomlands in Florida. While it can grow well in wet soils, it is very adaptable. It prefers moist acidic soils; however, it will grow in all soil types except those that are very well drained. The tree has a pyramidal shape when it is young.
It requires little pruning when it is young since it usually develops a central leader with branches that grow at wide angles to the trunk. The tree at maturity is an upright oval shape. There is a concerted effort in the landscape industry to develop superior selections that will contribute to a more consistent shaped tree for landscape plantings.
One of the few drawbacks with this tree is a problem in transplanting field grown trees. To solve this problem it is recommended that you use quality containerized material to plant in the landscape. With plenty of room, this tree will make an exceptional specimen in the landscape.