Sweetgum Tree



Botanical Name:  Liquidambar styraciflua

Common Name:  Sweetgum tree, Red Gum tree

Description:  A large, Florida native forest tree to 80′ x 30′ wide and a straight trunk to 3 feet or more in diameter, with a conical shape when young and an upright, broad crown on older trees. Leaf shape is simple, alternate, star-shaped, 4″ to 7″ long and wide, with 5 to 7 pointed lobes and a finely-toothed leaf margin. Leaves are aromatic when crushed and turn brilliant colors of yellow, orange, red, and purple in the fall. Male and female flowers are borne separately on the same tree, opening with the leaves; male flowers are small, greenish, inconspicuous; the female flowers are small round heads on a long stalk. A composite fruit shaped like a spiked ball, 1″ to 1.5″ in diameter, on a long stalk, made up of many capsules enclosing the seeds. Fruits hangs on the twigs late into winter. Twigs are reddish-brown and sometimes have corky wings; bark is light gray, turning rough with rounded, corky ridges that develop into broader plates and deep furrows on older trunks. The wood is moderately hard, close-grained, wood is extensively used for flooring, railroad ties, paper pulp, and veneers for baskets of all kinds. Does fine growing in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet, and clay soils. Moderately drought tolerant. Doesn’t like growing in alkaline soils. Grows fine in sun, part sun, or part shade. Birds love to eat the seeds inside the gumballs. Is a larval host plant for luna (Actias luna) moths.

Native habitat is in dry-moist sites, river bottoms, upland hardwood forests, roadsides.

Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Some tolerance to salty wind but not direct salt spray.

This plant in 3-gallon containers is 2-4′ tall.

This plant in 7-gallon containers is 4-6′ tall.

Plant Lore:  In rural areas, children made bubble gum by combining sweetgum sap with other local fruits.

Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 10


Additional information

Container Size

3-gallon, 7-gallon


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