The American Sweetgum grows in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well drained, wet, wide range, clay soils.
The Sweetgum tree, with its star-shaped leaves, neatly compact crown, interesting fruit, and twigs with unique corky growths called wings, is an attractive shade tree. It turns brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red and purple in autumn. Its wood is alternatively streaked with reddish-brown and black, making it popular for fine furniture and interior finishing. Sweetgum has become a prized shade tree in parks, campuses and around residences with space for large trees.
Deep, glossy green star-shaped leaves mark the Sweetgum. Leaves turn yellow-purple-red in the fall, and stay on the tree quite late. Its shape is pyramidal, becoming more rounded with age. Avoid polluted sites. Grows 60'-70', with a 45' spread. (Zones 5-9)
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 The first historical reference to the tree comes from the author and soldier, Don Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who accompanied Cortez in 1519 and was a witness to ceremonies between Cortez and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 fist 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.
Requires moist soil conditions, moderate drought tolerance.
The leaves are distinctively star-shaped with five points or lobes, and occasionally seven. They have toothed margins, grow alternately along the twig, and are borne on long petioles. They are medium green in summer and orange, purple, red or yellow in autumn.
Yellow-green in color, not distinctive.
The fruit is long-stemmed, woody and bur-like; approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter.