Like every gardener, I’ve met with success and disappointment. The fate of this young Nyssa sylvatica (known as tupelo and black gum) is, sadly, an example of the latter.
The tree seemed healthy enough – I saw it every day when I went to the mailbox and until a few weeks ago, everything seemed normal. Then, all the leaves started turning yellow and, before long, had fallen on top of the thick layer of mondo grass at the base of the tree. The trunk had a few black spots, previously hidden by the leaf canopy, but no major signs of decline were evident.
On closer inspection, I found that the ground under the black gum had become very unstable, most likely due to a decaying tree stump which I had not seen because of the heavy groundcover. I also wondered if voles might have caused damage since they had just severed the roots of a nearby hosta. (Black gums are one of the few trees that have a strong taproot instead of a broad network of lesser roots). I’m just speculating, since it was too late to get a tree specialist to help diagnose the problem and potentially save the tree.
I don’t think the tree would have lived to maturity since it had developed a heavy lateral branch at the top instead of the strong central leader it needed. But that’s not much consolation: the birds won’t benefit from future berries, I won’t see the magnificent fall color again, and a valuable eastern native is lost in the landscape.