Cornaceae (dogwood family) Nyssa

Nyssa sylvatica sour gum, pepperidge, tupelo

Eastern & Southeastern United States
Nyssa sylvatica in fall color, behind Building 70. Sairus Patel, 1 Oct 2018
Nyssa sylvatica beginning to turn, Building 70. Sairus Patel, 1 Oct 2018

A small deciduous tree with good fall color, one of our earliest trees to turn. Its elliptic leaves are often narrower towards the base, glossy green above and paler below. The small, dark blue plum-like fruit, about ½ inch long, were eaten by Native Americans. In October the patchwork of red leaves emerging among the bright green is distinctive as the crown begins to turn. Sour gums can be found on the south side of the Outer Quad near the men’s and women’s restrooms. It is used as a street tree at Gamble Garden Center, along Churchill Avenue and Waverley Street in Palo Alto.

Nyssa sylvatica leaves. John Rawlings, ca. 2005

Name derivation: Nyssa – after Nysa, a water nymph; the first described species, N. aquatica, grows in swamps; sylvatica – of woods.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Family updated from Nyssaceae to Cornaceae Dec 2017 (SP). Fall color notes, edits (Nov 2023, SP).