Liquidambar styraciflua L.
Sweetgum, American sweetgum
Hamamelidaceae (Witch-Hazel Family)
A large, open-crowned tree,
sweet-gum grows 75 ft. tall in cultivation and up to 130 ft. in the wild. Large, aromatic tree
with straight trunk and conical crown that becomes round and spreading. Young trees are distinctly conical in form. The long, straight trunk is occasionally buttressed and bears strong, ascending branches. Glossy green, deciduous
leaves have five deep lobes making a star shape. Fall foliage is purple and red, and will become colorful even without cold temperatures. The fruit
is a globular, horny, woody ball, 1 in. in diameter, which hangs on a long stem
and persists through January.
An important timber tree,
Sweetgum is second in production only to oaks among hardwoods. It is a leading furniture wood, used for cabinetwork, veneer, plywood, pulpwood, barrels, and boxes. In pioneer days, a gum was obtained from the trunks by peeling the bark
and scraping off the resinlike solid. This gum was used medicinally as well as for chewing gum.Commercial storax, a fragrant resin used in perfumes and medicines, is from the related Oriental Sweetgum (Liquidambar orientalis
Mill.) of western Asia.
Image Gallery: 45 photo(s) available
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Complexity: Simple Breeding System:
, Monoecious Leaf:
Green Autumn Foliage:
Brown Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KY , LA , MD , MA , MS , MO , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV , DC Native Distribution:
S. CT to s. IN, s. IL & s.e. MO, s. to s. FL, s.e. TX & s.e. OK; also Mex. Native Habitat:
Low, rich, moist woods; coastal plains USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Deep, moist, alluvial loams. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Acid-based.
Conditions Comments: Sweet gum can become aggressive in moist, sandy soils. It is not drought-tolerant and does not do well is polluted areas or small areas which limit root development. It grows rapidly and is long-lived, adapting to a variety of sites. It is susceptible to iron chlorosis in soil which is too basic. Plant only in spring as roots take 3-4 months to recover from the shock of transplanting. Fruits do not readily decompose and and can jam reel mowers.
Fast growing, Attractive, Long-living, Fall conspicuous, Shade tree Use Wildlife:
Seed balls attract several bird species. Nesting site, Cover, Fruit-birds, Fruit-mammals Use Medicinal:
Comanches used unknown species as contraception. Used to suppress menstrual flow by Assiniboins. (Kindscher)
Tea made from leaves used to wash wounds, decoctim of roots from sweet gum and pennywort applied directly to wounds, balsam from sweet gum bark
is an astringent. (Weiner) Attracts: