Nyssa sylvatica – Black Gum as it is called in the north and Black Tupelo as it’s called in the south, is native to eastern North America. It’s native range is the coastal northeast – from southern Ontario south to central Florida. However it extends from eastern Texas down into Mexico as well.
Photo credit: Henry Hemming on Visualhunt / CC BY
Black gum is a slow-growing deciduous tree with a rounded crown (more pyramidal when young). It is a stately tree and needs plenty of room to grow. They are often dioecious with male and female plants but many trees contain both. It is best to plant in mass for successful berry production. The flowers are not showy but are an excellent source of nectar for honey bees, native bees and other pollinators. Insect-eating birds such as kinglets, phoebes, pine warblers and others visit the tree to feed on the small insects it attracts. If both male and female are present, flowers will give way to long dark blue fruits. The berries are attractive to a variety of birds, especially the American Robin. Other birds attracted include many thrush, northern cardinal, northern mockingbird, blue jay, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, northern flicker, pileated woodpecker, eastern phoebe, brown thrasher, eastern bluebird, European starling, scarlet tanager, gray catbird, cedar waxwing and American crow. Fall color is spectacular with scarlet, yellow and orange shades.
Photo credit: dogtooth77 on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA
The limbs of these trees often deteriorate early making the decayed holes an excellent den for squirrels, raccoons, opossum as well as nesting sites for honeybees formerly used as bee gums by beekeepers. The wood is heavy, hard and resistant to splitting and useful in making mauls, pulleys, wheel hubs, agricultural rollers, bowls, paving blocks and shutters in weaving. On Martha’s Vineyard this species is known as “beetlebung” for its use in making the mallet known as a beetle, used for hammering bungs (stoppers) into barrels.
Black gum is easy to grow in full sun to part shade. It tolerates conditions from wet soils to dry, sandy ones. It forms a large deep taproot when young making it difficult to transplant.
Quercus bicolor – Swamp White Oak is a North American species widespread in eastern and central Canada, from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, west as far as Ontario, Minnesota and Tennessee. The species is most common and reaches its largest size in western NY and northern Ohio.
Photo credit: Virens (Latin for greening) on VisualHunt / CC BY
Swamp white oak is a deciduous tree with a broad, rounded crown. Shiny dark green leaves are silver on the bottom. Flowers are insignificant in April but attractive to pollen-seeking insects such as dusky wings and hairstreak butterflies. They also attract migrating vireos, tanagers and warblers in search of food. It has become a popular landscape tree due to ease of transplanting. Wildlife such as deer, wild turkey, black bear, fox, gray squirrels, ducks, geese and other animals are attracted to this tree when acorns are dropping in the fall.
Photo credit: Tie Guy II on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA
Indigenous to lowland wet areas, it also has surprisingly good drought resistance.
Aronia arbutifolia – Red Chokeberry is native to eastern Canada and to the eastern and central US from eastern Texas to Nova Scotia inland to Ontario, Ohio, Kentucky and Oklahoma.
Photo credit: matthewbeziat on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC
This deciduous shrub grows 4-6’ tall and will form colonies if you allow it to spread. It has clusters of tiny white flowers in the early spring providing loads of nectar for pollinators. The flowers are followed by dense clusters of glossy red fruit in late summer which persist through winter, which is great for feeding the birds. Brilliant red fall color makes it a wonderful alternative to non-native plants such as burning bush. It’s compact habit makes an excellent hedge and provides cover for wildlife.
Photo credit: andrey_zharkikh on Visual hunt / CC BY
It is tolerant of a wide range of conditions including wet or poor dry soils in full sun or part shade