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Featured Plant Of The Month

There is always something in bloom at the Arboretum! Use our Plants Library to plan a photo shoot or to choose one of the trails to walk. Learn more about the plants at the Arboretum by visiting our Previously Featured Plants list and our Special Seasonal Featured Plants page.


Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Sweetgum Leaves Sweetgum Leaves Sweetgum is a deciduous tree that holds onto its leaves into late November/early December. In late fall one can still find occasional trees with a few yellow to purple leaves along with conspicuous stalked, spiny fruits hanging from the branches. At the Arboretum, Sweetgum can be found along many of our trails. Two large Sweetgums, planted in 1965, can be seen in the Marsh Area.

Sweetgum is found throughout the Eastern U.S. The fruits consist of seed pods united into dense spiny balls. The bark is deeply furrowed into narrow ridges, and the twigs often develop corky ridges along their length. The lobed leaves, which resemble maple, are pungent when crushed.

The gum from which Sweetgum derives its common name has been used historically for incense, perfumery and medicinal purposes. Its lumber has a variety of uses such as furniture, crates, cabinets, and barrels. Its distinctive heartwood is often referred to as “red gum” lumber. The species is widely utilized in the manufacture of engineered composite wood panels and market pulp. It is also an important shade tree.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu