Virginia Tech Dendrology

sweetgum Hamamelidaceae Liquidambar styraciflua L. Listen to the Latin symbol: LIST2
Leaf: Alternate, simple, palmately veined, orbicular, 4 to 6 inches across with 5 to 7 lobes (look like stars), and a finely serrate margin. Shiny green above and pubescent in the axils of the veins below, fragrant when crushed.
Flower: Species is monoecious; females borne on a slender stalk, capped with a globose head, male flowers borne on an upright raceme; both are small, bright yellow-green (tinged with red) and not showy, appear in early to mid-spring.
Fruit: Easy to identify spiny "gumballs", woody brown spherical cluster of capsules, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter with openings in the surface that release 2 seeds from each capsule; maturing in fall.
Twig: Medium textured, shiny green to yellow-brown, usually with apparent corky outgrowths, particularly when fast growing. The terminal bud is large and is usually sticky, covered with green to orange-brown, shiny scales.
Bark: Gray-brown, irregular furrows and rough rounded ridges.
Form: A medium to large tree to 80 feet tall with a straight stem and a pyramidal crown, especially when young.
Looks like: Shantung maple - blackgum
leaf flower fruit twig bark form1 map
Additional Range Information: Liquidambar styraciflua is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting sweetgum.
More Information: Fall Color - Wood - Landowner Factsheet
External Links: USDAFS Silvics of North America - USDAFS Additional Silvics - USDA Plants Database - Horticulture Information - USDAFS Forest Products Lab
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson