A popular medium-large ornamental tree, the American sweetgum is distinguished by its distinctive leaves and burr-ball fruit.
More detail: American sweetgums’s Tree of the Month.
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
Eastern United States from Connecticut to Florida, also found in Mexico and Guatemala
Medium to large deciduous, occasionally evergreen
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
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.
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.