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American Sweetgum

Liquidambar styraciflua

Leaves: Deciduous. Star-shaped leaves are 4 to 7 inches wide and about as high, with 5 to 7 lobes. Bright to deep green color with a finely serrated leaf edge. Fall color is yellow to purple to red.

Bark/Twigs: Thick, gray-brown bark, deeply furrowed into narrow, tight, somewhat rounded ridges.

Flowers/Fruit: Flowers are small with no petals and inconspicuous, in small heads. Blooms in April to May.  Fruit is a unique, woody, brown, spiked, 1 to 1½ inch diameter, globe-like head of 2-celled, capsules. Persists on trees into winter.

Mature size and shape: Large. 60 to 75 feet high by ⅔ as wide.  Pyramidal when young. Oblong to rounded crown at maturity.

General information/special features: Plant in full sun. Shade intolerant. Deep, moist, slightly acidic soil preferred. Can be chlorotic in alkaline soils. Used for lumber for furniture and boxes, veneer, railroad ties, and pulp. The common name of sweet gum refers to an aromatic gum that exudes from the sap of the tree when injured.

Landscape use and maintenance: Shade tree. Average to fast growing rate. High maintenance. Fruit/seeds can be messy and a nuisance, but the cultivar 'Rotundiloba' is a sterile, non-fruiting variety. Not a good city tree, avoid polluted areas and areas that have a restrictive root zone.  Hard to establish. Transplant in spring. Prune during winter.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

Family/Origin: Hamamelidaceae - Witch-hazel. Native to the southern two-thirds of the eastern U.S., extending west to southeastern Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas.

Campus Use: Rare. Only specimen. Can be found on the north side of the Park Building (Bld 1).

Last Updated: 6/3/22