*Liquidambar styraciflua*- Ashlee and Christine

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Latin Name

Liquidambar styraciflua


Common Name(s)

American sweetgum, sweet gum, hazel pine, American-storax, bilsted, red-gum, satin-walnut, star-leaved gum, or alligator-wood

Plant Family

Currently placed in the Altingiaceae family, formerly Hamamelidaceae.

Plant Description (Height/Habit/General Characteristics)

A fully developed tree averages around 80 to 120 feet.

Has a deciduous foliage and conical shape throughout.

Highly adaptable hardwood species in its tolerance to different soil and site conditions. Grows best on the moist alluvial clay and loamy soils of river bottoms, but its grows on a wide range of Piedmont and Coastal Plain soils.

Leaf Description

Leaves are star-shaped with five pointy lobes, and a long petiole. Simple leaf blade palmately lobed; surfaces glabrous, except young leaves hairy on veins and main vein-axils. Arranged alternately and one leaf per node on stem.

Leaf photo


SweetGum Leaf.JPG

Leaf Variation

Leaf variations.jpg


Flower Description

The flowers are typically about 1–1.5 inches in diameter and ball-like that grow in clusters. They are unisexual and greenish in color. The flowers typically appear in March to May and persist into Autumn.

SweetGum Flower.jpg Source: https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/liquidambar-styraciflua

Seed Description

Fruits are spiky green balls that turn brown with age. They are a little over an inch wide, and dangle on a long stalk. Each ball has prickly points that open to let seeds out. Two winged seeds come from each hole. Seeds are mostly spread by the wind.

Sweet gum....jpg

SweetGum Seed.JPG

Bark/Stem Description

The bark is grey-brown and deeply, irregularly furrowed into narrow, scaly plates or ridges. The stems are rounded to somewhat angled, often developing corky wings.

SweetGum Bark.JPG

Other Information

Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has listed Liquidambar styraciflua as a special concern plants, meaning the species is not endangered or threatened, but is extremely uncommon or has unique or highly specific habitat requirements and deserves careful monitoring of its status that the given area.

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Distinguishing characteristics include its star-shaped leaves with 5 to 7 lobes. The leaves are dark green in spring and summer and turn gold and orange in autumn. The tree has thick, gray-brown, deeply furrowed bark, when cut a brownish yellow sap seeps out. The fruit is a spiky,long-stemmed "gum ball" that houses many seeds.

Collection Location on GGC’s Campus

Found on the forest floor of the woods to the west of the baseball field, behind B building.


Liquidambar styraciflua grows in woods and along streambanks and lakes. Young Sweetgums are great pioneer plants.

Historic Range

Liquidambar styraciflua is native from Connecticut to Florida and Missouri further south to Texas, Mexico and Central America. In Missouri, it typically occurs in moist low woods and along streams only in the far southeastern corner of the state.An ancestor of Liquidambar styraciflua is known from Tertiary-aged fossils in Alaska, Greenland, and the mid-continental plateau of North America, much further north than sweet gums current habitat.

Range Map

Sweet gum.png

Cultural Information

Liquidambar styraciflua was well known as a medicinal plant by Native Americans. Cherokee, Choctaw, Houma, Koasati, and Rappahannock tribes used the gum, bark, and root, as an antidiarrheal, dermatological aid, gynecological aid, sedative, and febrifuge. The resin has been used in the past for chewing gum, incense, perfumes, folk medicines and flavorings. Tree wood has been widely used for a number of applications including flooring, furniture and home interiors.

This page was created by:

Ashlee Johnson and Christine Meiklejohn for BIOL 3310K WIKI assignment lab

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