American Sweetgum

Leaves in fall


A popular medium-large ornamental tree, the American sweetgum is distinguished by its distinctive leaves and burr-ball fruit.

This tree is eligible for a $100 Tree Rebate.

More detail: American sweetgums’s Tree of the Month.

Common Name
American sweetgum

Latin Name
Liquidambar styraciflua

Glossy leaves arranged in a five, sometimes seven, pointed star shape

Small, green-red globular clusters attached by stalk to branches

Hard, dry, spherical shaped with short rounded spikes protruding from all sides

Corky-ridged, with leaves extending alternately

Light brown tinged with red, deeply fissured, scaly ridges

Comes to maturity with an oval, pyramidal shape

Commonly grows 65 to 115 feet tall, 40 to 50 feet wide

Native Range
Eastern United States from Connecticut to Florida, also found in Mexico and Guatemala

Medium to large deciduous, occasionally evergreen

Seasonal Colors
Leaves generally turn brilliant orange, red, and purple in autumn

Prefers acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet, wide range, clay soils

Grows best in full sun

Similar Species
Nyssa aquatica, N. sylvatica

Pests and Diseases
Sweetgum blight is a problem in southeastern areas, probably due to drought conditions. Pests attack the leaves but are not usually harmful to the tree.

Rebate Eligibility

Of Note
In the extreme southern or tropical parts of its range, some trees are evergreen or semi-evergreen, with negligible fall color.

Sweetgum is one of the most important commercial hardwoods in the southeastern United States.

The Aztecs believed the resin to have medicinal properties and drank it in ceremonies.

Photo Credits

J.G. in S.F.
Dendroica cerulea
J.G. in S.F.(2)
Kew on Flickr