Department of Horticulture New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth 4-H Logo

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Cornell University


Sweet Gum
Liquidambar styraciflua
(lih-kwih-dam-bar sty-rah-sih-flu-ah)


sweet gum fruit  sweet gum tree  sweet gum tree  sweet gum
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sweet gum leaves

What about it?

Sweet gum is a large, deciduous tree with alternate buds and leaves. It is a native tree that will grow to a height of 65 feet. The fruit of the sweet gum tree is a spiny, many-seeded capsule about 1 inch in diameter. Sweet gum leaves are shaped like starfish; they are glossy green above and paler underneath and outlined with finely jagged edges. In the fall the leaves of the sweet gum turn a rich reddish-orange and purple.

What is it used for?

Sweet gum trees are used as ornamentals, shade, a lawn tree, or a street tree. Its exceptional fall color is appreciated when planted near a home.

Where does it grow? How do we grow it?

Sweet gum trees prefer moist, fertile, well-drained, acidic soil.

When planting, these trees should be spaced 50 feet apart.

What are its primary problems?

Sweet gum is subject to twig kill in severe winters. The fruits of the sweet gum could also be a maintenance problem.

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Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.