The American sweetgum (liquidambar styraciflua) is also commonly referred to as the sweet-gum, alligator-wood, red-gum, satin-walnut, and star-leaved gum and is a deciduous tree that is native to eastern North America. The sweetgum is one of the most commonly found hardwoods and is popular for its stunning autumn colors. The sweetgum is a medium to large sized tree that typically grows between 65 – 115 feet, with a trunk than can span up to 6 feet in diameter. The sweetgum has a lifecycle of 400 years or more. The tree may be recognized by its five pointed star shaped leaves along with its hard fruits that have a spiked appearance. The sweetgum is an attractive shade tree that can be found in parks and yards throughout the country particularly the Southern States. If you are hoping to add visual interest to your yard, the sweetgum is an excellent choice with its bright green leaves that will turn to vibrant shades of yellow, orange, purple and red during the autumn months.
Sweetgum Tree Classification & Growth Facts
The American sweetgum is considered to be both an ornamental tree and a shade tree. One of the most desirable attributes is the trees sweeping canopy which does an excellent job of blocking sunlight while adding interest and depth to landscaped areas. The tree has a medium to fast growth rate and may increase in height between 13” to 24” or more in a single year. The ideal amount of sun exposure is six hours of direct sunlight per day. The American sweetgum thrives in various soil types including acidic, moist, sandy, clay and loamy soils and has a moderate tolerance to drought. Sweetgums require space for optimal root development.
Identification of the American Sweetgum; ‘Alligatorwood’ Bark, Star Shaped Leaves, Seeds & Gum-Ball Sized Fruit
The star-shaped leaves with five lobes that are a glossy green in color are one of the most recognizable traits of the sweetgum. The tree produces flowers in the spring from March to May. During the fall, the leaves turn to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red and purple. The tree also yields fruit that has a burr-like appearance about the size of a gum-ball. The bark of the tree is light brown in color with shades of red intertwined and a ridged and scaly appearance hence the nickname – alligator wood. The tree begins to grow in a pyramid shape before coming more rounded as it ages. The seeds of the tree are the preferred diet of finches, sparrows, doves, bobwhites and wild turkeys. The fruit and seeds also attract squirrels and chipmunks. The opened fruit can often be found beneath the trees and is often referred to as burr-ball or gum-balls because of their spiked appearance.
Sweetgum Hardwood Flooring, Cabinets & Other Furniture
The sweetgum is also an important commercial product that is strong and even-grained and is an excellent choice for flooring and cabinets. The tree produces a gum resin that may be clear, yellow or reddish in color that has a pleasant smell. The ancient Aztecs believed that the resin had healing properties, and mixed the resin with tobacco. Today, the resin is used as an important ingredient in both the perfume and tobacco industries.
Sweetgum Tree Trimming, Pruning, Removal & More in McDonough, Jackson, Jonesboro, Fayetteville & Hampton as well as Fayette, Clayton & Henry Counties in Central Georgia
For information about local tree selection, trimming, pruning, tree topping, stump grinding, emergency tree removal, storm damage cleanup and much more, contact the knowledgeable experts at Milam’s Tree Services today.