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American SweetgumLiquidambar styraciflua

  • American Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua
  • American Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua
  • American Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua
  • American Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua
  • American Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua

The American sweetgum—with its star-shaped leaves, neatly compact crown, interesting fruit and twigs with unique corky growths called wings—is an attractive shade tree. It has become a prized specimen in parks, campuses and large yards across the country.

If you’ve got the space and are looking to add some fall color, this tree is a sure bet. The glossy green leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red and purple in the autumn.

Hardiness Zones

The american sweetgum can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–9. View Map

Tree Type

This tree is considered both a shade tree and an ornamental tree. It features a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight and adds visual interest and beauty to landscaping.

Mature Size

The American sweetgum grows to a height of 60–75' and a spread of 40–50' at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium to Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium to fast rate, with height increases of anywhere from 13" to more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The American sweetgum grows in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils. It has moderate drought tolerance.


This tree:
  • Features star-shaped leaves with 5 lobes (occasionally 7) that are lustrous medium green in color, toothed along the margins and 4–7½" in length.
  • Provides brilliant fall color, with leaves turning brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red and purple.
  • Yields long-stemmed, woody, burr-like fruit that is approximately 1½" in diameter.
  • Grows in a pyramidal shape, becoming more oval or rounded with age.
  • Needs plenty of space for root development.
  • Does not tolerate pollution.

Wildlife Value

American sweetgum seeds are eaten by eastern goldfinches, purple finches, sparrows, mourning doves, northern bobwhites and wild turkeys. Small mammals such as chipmunks, red squirrels and gray squirrels also enjoy the fruits and seeds.


The Sweetgum tree is native to the southeastern United States and a member of a genus made up of only six species. The others are found only in Asia. The first historical reference to the tree comes from the author and soldier, Don Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who accompanied Cortez in 1519 and was a witness to ceremonies between Cortez and Montezuma, who both partook of a liquid amber extracted from a sweetgum tree. The tree itself was first noticed and recorded by the historian Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in 1542. Once commercially popular for soaps, adhesives and pharmaceuticals, today its wood is valuable for fine furniture and interior finishing.