American Sweetgum


Leaves in fall

Introduction

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.

Common Name

American sweetgum

Latin Name

Liquidambar styraciflua

Leaf

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

Flower

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

Fruit/Nut

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

Twig/branches

Corky-ridged, with leaves extending alternately

Bark

Light brown tinged with red, deeply fissured, scaly ridges

Form

Comes to maturity with an oval, pyramidal shape

Size

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

Type

Medium to large deciduous, occasionally evergreen

Seasonal Colors

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

Soil

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

Light

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

$100

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