The sweetgum is native to eastern North America and can be found growing in moist, rich, alluvial soils or invading cutover hardwood stands and pine plantations in upland sites.
This deciduous and oblong conical crowned tree typically reaches 80 feet tall but can occasionally reach over 100 feet tall. Its leaves are star shaped, usually with 5 points that turn yellow and crimson in the autumn. They are toothed around the edges and are 3-6 inches long. Sweetgum produces a fruit that is a small spiny ball with many wooden capsules that mature in late summer and are 1-1.5 inches in diameter. Its petal-less flowers are greenish yellow that grow in clusters at the end of a branch during April.
Ecosystem Service Value:
The seeds from the sweetgum are eaten by many small birds and mammals.
Uses, Other Details:
In the southeast, the sweetgum’s hardwood is considered to be one of the most valuable for commercial use of timber.
Does not tolerate pollution.
Identification Tips and Tricks:
The star shaped leaves and the spiky gumballs make the sweetgum tree easily identifiable.
Species profile by Billie Rogers
Kirkman, L. Katherine., et al. Native Trees of the Southeast: An Identification Guide. Timber Press, 2007.
“Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua.” Arbor Day Foundation, https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/TreeDetail.cfm?itemID=928. Retrieved November 8, 2020.