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Sweetgum, American Liquidambar styraciflua

American Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua
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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)

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Zones 5 - 9 Zones 5 - 9
Hardiness Zones 5 - 9
The American Sweetgum can be expected to grow in the zones shown in color in the arborday.org zone map. View Map
Ornamental Tree Ornamental Tree
Type of tree
Ornamental Trees, Shade Trees
60' - 75' High 60' - 75' High
Mature Height
The American Sweetgum grows to be 60' - 75' feet in height.
40' - 50' Spread 40' - 50' Spread
Mature Spread
The American Sweetgum has a spread of about 40' - 50' at full maturity.
Medium to Fast Growth Medium to Fast Growth
Growth Rate
This tree grows at a medium to fast growth rate. More about this.
Full Sun Full Sun
Sun
This sweetgum does well in full sun.
Various Soils Various Soils
Soil
The American Sweetgum grows in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well drained, wet, wide range, clay soils.
Oval Shape Oval Shape
Shape
This sweetgum has oval, pyramidal shape.
Attributes

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.

Description

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)

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.

History/Lore/Use

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.

Moisture

Requires moist soil conditions, moderate drought tolerance.

Leaves

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.

Flower Color

Yellow-green in color, not distinctive.

Bloom Time

Late April-May.

Fruit Description

The fruit is long-stemmed, woody and bur-like; approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter.