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Sideroxylon lanuginosum: Gum bully

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, and Deborah R. Hilbert


This native North American deciduous tree grows 40- to 50-feet in height and has an open canopy. Because there appear to be many forms of the plant in nature, from shrubby to tree form, nursery operators could make superior selections. The bark varies considerably from tree to tree, making this a potential selection criterion for cultivar development. The leathery, shiny green leaves are smooth on their upperside and a fuzzy, red/brown to gray beneath. They drop in late fall without a show. Small, fragrant white flowers appear from June to July and are followed in fall by large, shiny, blue/black, fleshy fruits that are extremely popular with birds and other wildlife. While the fruits are edible to man, they have been known to produce unpleasant side-effects if eaten in quantity.

Mature Bumelia lanuginosa: Chittamwood.
Figure 1. Mature Bumelia lanuginosa: Chittamwood.
Credit: Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Sideroxylon lanuginosum

Pronunciation: sid-der-oh-ZEE-lon lan-oo-gih-NOH-sum

Common name(s): gum bully, chittamwood, gum bumelia, gum elastic buckthorn

Family: Sapotaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 5A through 9B (Figure 2)

Origin: native to North America

Invasive potential: native

Uses: reclamation; specimen; shade; highway median; street without sidewalk

Figure 2. Range.


Height: 40 to 50 feet

Spread: 25 to 35 feet

Crown uniformity: irregular

Crown shape: spreading

Crown density: moderate

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: oblanceolate, oblong, obovate

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: deciduous

Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches, 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Foliage.



Flower color: white/cream/gray

Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: round

Fruit length: less than 0.5 inch, 0.5 to 1 inch

Fruit covering: fleshy

Fruit color: blue, black

Fruit characteristics: attracts squirrels/mammals; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: gray, brown

Current year twig thickness: thin

Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun

Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; alkaline; occasionally wet; well-drained

Drought tolerance: high

Aerosol salt tolerance: unknown


Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown

Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

Young trees require training to display a tree-like form since a shrubby, rounded ball of foliage often develops without pruning. It is well suited for a reclamation site due to the adaptability to a wide range of soil types. It could be planted in urban and suburban landscapes, especially in areas that receive minimum maintenance.

The common names of gum bumelia and gum elastic are derived from the sap that quickly oozes from cuts or cracks to the bark. Youngsters in pioneer days were known to chew this sap as a gum.

Chittamwood should be grown in full sun or partial shade on well drained soils. Trees found on poor soils in the wild grow slowly and are stunted, but with normal care they will grow well in a variety of landscapes.

Propagation is by seed or cuttings.

Pests and Diseases

It is pest-free.

Publication #ENH262

Release Date:February 14, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: Agricultural and Food Systems
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is ENH262, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006 and November 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Department of Environmental Horticulture; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture, Department of Environmental Horticulture; and Deborah R. Hilbert, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Michael Andreu
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