Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum)

Easily identified for their leaves’ dramatic autumn colors and fruits (commonly called “gum balls”), L. styraciflua grows to considerable heights quickly. They
commonly survive up to 200 years and serve as an excellent shade tree. Litter created by the fruits and the strong root system may cause problems, however.

Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum)
Deciduous: yes
Hardiness Zones: 5-9
Height: 18-24 meters (60-80 feet) (rarely to 36 meters (120 feet)) tall
Diameter: 12-18 meters (40-60 feet) wide
Growth Rate: moderate to fast
Age: usually up to 200 years, rarely up to 300 years old
Root System: large, grow aggressively, shallow, deep vertical (taproot-like), strong surface roots
Family: Altingiaceae/Hamamelidaceae
Subspecies: ‘Rotundiloba’ (male only cultivar, no fruit production), ‘Festival’ (less cold hardy), ‘Moraine’ (most cold hardy), ‘Burgundy’ (deep red autumn color),
‘Palo Alto’ (orange foliage in autumn),

Tolerates: wet soils, drought (moderately), salt (moderately), clay/heavy soils, pollution (somewhat)
Problems (major): none
Problems (minor): Webworms, leaf miner, caterpillars, borers, scale, leaf spots, wood rot, bleeding necrosis, canker, iron chlorosis (in alkaline soils), litter (caused
by gum balls)
Poisonous: no known toxins

Soil requirements: prefers moist, deep, nutrient-rich, well-drained soils – tolerates most soils that aren’t alkaline (light/sandy, loamy/medium, clay/heavy, very acidic,
slightly acidic, neutral)
Air requirements: moderately tolerant of urban pollution
Watering requirement: moderate
Sun requirement: full sun

Needles: none
Cones (male): none
Cones (female): none
Leaves: toothed, 5 star-shaped lobes, deep green, 4-7 inches long
Flowers: yellow-green, inconspicuous, appear in clusters, usually April-May
Fruits: initially light green, maturing to brown, 3-5 centimeters (1-2 inches) in diameter, spherical, spiky, called “Gum balls”
Seeds require stratification: yes
Monoecious or Dioecious: monoecious

Notable characteristics:
The crown is initially pyrimidal but becomes rounded with age. The resin/sap exerted by the tree when wounded gives these trees their names. The foliage turns
excellent shades of yellow, orange, red, and black in autumn.

The gum has been used as chewing gum and for aromatic purposes.

Sources used:


Foliage and seed pods

Sweet gum typically have one primary trunk and erect vertical growth.

A newer leaf, veins apparent

A close-up of the fruit, unopened and immature

Surface roots

All of the images provided were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is
appropriately cited first.


Leave a comment

Filed under Plant Analysis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s