Trees, 5–30 m, proximal limbs spreading to slightly drooping, crown irregular; bark ± regularly longitudinally and transversely fissured; twigs puberulent. Leaves: petiole 5–15(–30) mm; blade obovate to elliptic, 5.5–12(–16) × (2.2–)3.5–6.5(–9.1) cm, herbaceous, base cuneate to rounded, margins entire proximally and 0–1(–3)-toothed distally, apex acute to acuminate, abaxial surface glabrous or puberulent, adaxial surface glabrous. Inflorescences: peduncle 3.6–4.3 cm, sparsely hairy or glabrous; staminate (1–)2–5(–7)-flowered, pistillate and bisexual (2–)3–5(–8)-flowered. Staminate pedicels present. Flowers: ovary glabrous. Drupes black to blue, glaucous, ovoid to ellipsoid, 8–12 mm, rough or smooth; stone 7–9 mm, with several low, rounded longitudinal ridges.
Phenology: Flowering spring.
Habitat: Well-drained sites, swamps (especially in northern part of range), saturated longleaf pine savannas, moist to mesic (or dry-mesic) woods.
Elevation: 0–1100(–1600) m.
Ont., Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Ky., La., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Miss., Mo., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis., c Mexico.
Nyssa sylvatica is widely planted as an ornamental, appreciated especially for its fall color.