Liquidambar styraciflua

Family: Altingiaceae

Leaf Type: Deciduous

Mature Height: ~30 m (~100 ft)

Fall Color: Yellow, orange, red, maroon

Native Range: Sweetgums are characteristic trees of the South. They are commonly found in rich soils and in floodplains.



The leaves of sweetgum trees are easily recognizable by their star shape. They have five to seven deep lobes that are pointed with fine tooths along the edges. The leaves can look similar to maple leaves. Their fall colors are very bright and the same tree can have leaves of different colors. Sweetgums have a round fruit with pointed capsules all around, and they are commonly called sweet gumballs. The fruit is green until it matures to a dark brown. They hang off a thin stalk and persist through the winter. The flowers are globular and a yellow to red color. The bark of young sweetgums may be a silvery gray color but they become a dull gray-brown color with ridges as they mature. The small branches of sweetgums may have corky wings along them.


Fun Facts

● The tree gets its name from Native Americans and early pioneers who would chew its hard clumps of resin.
● The hardened sap from sweetgums, known as storax, has been used medicinally to treat skin problems and coughs.
● Sweetgum wood is commercially important because it is used for furniture and paper pulp.

“If Trees Could Sing” is a project of The Nature Conservancy that highlights several recording artists and demonstrates the importance of trees. Check out what Ben Folds has to say about sweetgums. 
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