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Botanical Name: Liquidambar styraciflua
Common Name: American Sweetgum
Origin: E. & SE. USA
Location: CNW, CSW, KN
Notable Feature: In addition to attractively furrowed bark, sweet gum showcases round, gumball-shaped fruits and glossy, star-shaped leaves that turn shades of red, orange, yellow or purple in autumn.
Habit: A deciduous, medium to large tree reaching 35 to 50 feet in cultivation and up to 150 feet in the wild. Decidedly pyramidal in shape when young, becoming oval to rounded with age. The bark is deeply fissured with scaly ridges and has the appearance of cork.
Flower: Female flowers, rounded, 1 to 1 ½” in diameter, and greenish in color; male flowers occur in terminal upright panicles, 3 to 4” long. Flowers appear between March and May and are monecious (male and female flowers occur separately on the same tree).
Fruit: Small hard-spiked, spheres about 1” in diameter contain seed capsules. The winged seeds are dispersed by the wind. The long persistent “Gum Balls“ can be difficult to walk on.
Foliage: Each leaf is dark green, smooth and shiny with 5 to 7 points resembling a star. Leaves are positioned alternately on the stems. In the fall they turn to brilliant shades of orange, red, and purple.
Interesting Fact: The organizers of the September 11th Memorial in New York donated a grove of Sweetgum trees to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. The common name references a gummy resin that oozes from the tree. Pioneers peeled back the bark and uses the resin for chewing gum and medicinal purposes.