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Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Sweetgum Leaf Sweetgum is found in much of the Eastern U.S. south of New England and is common in our area. Two large Sweetgums, planted in 1965, can be seen in the Marsh Area. The bright green, star-shaped, 5-7 lobed leaves resemble those of maple and have a pungent odor when crushed. In the fall, the leaf color can vary from yellow and orange to red, pink, or dark purple.


Sweetgum Fruits Sweetgum trees are monoecious with both male and female flowers on the same tree. After pollination, the male flower clusters fall to the ground, and the tightly compact cluster of pistillate flowers develop into spiky multiple fruits containing about 60 seed capsules. The light weight seeds are dispersed by wind, and the empty brown heads may remain on the tree throughout the winter.


Sweetgum Bark The bark is deeply furrowed into narrow ridges, and the twigs often develop corky ridges along their length. The gum from which Sweetgum derives its common name has been used since before the 16th century for incense, perfumery and medicinal purposes. Sweetgum lumber has a variety of uses such as furniture, crates, cabinets, and barrels, and 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