Landowner Fact Sheets

sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua play

Sweetgum is an important commercial hardwood in the U.S. southeast, where it occurs naturally on bottomland sites. In addition, it has proven very competitive in a variety of other sites, soils, and moisture regimes. It can be easily recognized by its star-shaped leaves.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Sweetgum is intolerant of shade and has good stump sprouting ability. Clearcut and seed-tree methods work best to regenerate this species.

Sweetgum is somewhat sensitive to drought, and growth is greatly reduced on dry sites. It is found on a wide variety of southern soils but does best on moist alluvium.


A medium to large tree to 80 feet tall with a straight stem and a pyramidal crown, especially when young.

Timber Value
Sweetgum wood is used for lumber, veneer, furniture, interior trim, boxes, crates, plywood, slack cooperage, railroad ties, pulpwood, and fuelwood.

Wildlife Value
Mice and rabbits are known to eat immature stems. The seeds are eaten by birds, squirrels, and chipmunks.
Attracts mice, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, birds

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Sweetgum's name comes from the hardened clumps of sap that are exuded from the wounds. Sweetgum is a relative of witchhazel, the medicinal plant common in moist woodland undestories. Sweetgum is a common ornamental despite the numerous spiky "gumballs" that fall from the tree. A horticultural variety exists that has rounded leaf tips and does not produce fruit.

Latin Meaning
Liquidambar: Latin "liquidus" (liquid) and "ambar" (amber), referring to resin containing storax / styraciflua: flowing with styrax (an aromatic balsam)

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.