Friday, November 7, 2014

Great Tree For Wildlife - Black Gum

by Donna L. Watkins

View Enlarged Image
Breakfast Area View in Early Fall
with Colorful Black Gum Trees
We have Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica) trees on our property in the back and mostly closer to the house because they need to get some sun to produce fruit. They're also called Black Tupelo or Sour Gum. I love the colors they show out with in Fall and that they provide berries for the birds, although I've only noticed the younger trees and have never noticed when an older one was bearing fruit.

I was picking up acorns to put on trays in the garage so towards the end of winter we can put them out for the wildlife when things are sparse. If we leave them on the ground they just bear roots, the nut rots and we have to dig out small oak trees every few years. Last year we didn't have any acorns at all. It happened in many places here in the East. Some years are better than others, but last year was horrible and it was a year of a very frigid winter here in Virginia and elsewhere. Back to the Black Gum tree ...

They bloom around May-June but the flowers are too tiny to notice, yet very attractive to pollinators as a nectar source. I didn't realize how many species of birds are attracted to the berries and the tree fruits at the time of year when migratory birds are flying through. How nice to have something special for our momentary guests. They fruit doesn't stay on the trees very long and are readily eaten up before winter even arrives.

View Enlarged Image
Black Gum Tree with Fruit for Wildlife
The birds attracted are many, such as: American Robin, Blue Jay, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Phoebe, Bobwhite Quail, Gray Catbird, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Northern Cardinal, Northern Flicker, Northern Mockingbird, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse, Scarlet Tanager, Swainson’s Thrush, Turkey, Wood Duck, Wood Thrush and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. We have almost all of those spending a bit or a lot of time here at Bluebird Cove, except for grouse, wood ducks and quail. There are two thrushes that I've never seen but they're rarely noticed so you need to know their song to identify them in the forest. We do get the Wood Thrush since I recognize his beautiful lilting song.

Even mammals enjoy the benefits of these trees that are visited by several species of squirrels, small rodents, gray foxes, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, black bears, and white-tailed deer. We don't have coyotes that I know of, but we get the rest with the bears only when they come out and go into hibernation and pass through storing up and that's not every year which is good because they can ruin every birdseed feeder you have in your yard along with the poles they're on in a very short time.

The gum trees are the first to turn colors in the Fall. Ours are mainly yellow and orange outside our breakfast area view. But we have some that are red elsewhere on the property. They, along with the maple trees we have provide a pretty view for too short a time before winter sets in. Fall used to be my favorite time of year, but knowing what's coming after has taken away that coveted spot and been replaced with Spring being my favorite now. We lived in Alabama for 18 years and 2 years in Georgia before that, so Fall could be much more enjoyed since Winter was only 2 months long. It's still nice to see the beauty of an Eastern hardwood forest outside your windows though.

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