Native Plant of the Week: Sweetgum

Family: Hamamelidaceae


Name: Liquidambar styraciflua - Sweetgum

Pictures: flower (NCSU), fall foliage detail (NCSU), fall color (NCSU), seed pod (NCSU)


Bloom Time: April-May


Flower: Yellowish green tinged with red


Soil Condition: Average, moist, acidic, well-drained


Light: Sun to Partial Shade


Height: 60-100' tall


Native Range: Eastern United States including Long Island


Zone: 5 to 9


Liquidambar styraciflua is a large, fast growing, shade tree with absolutely show stopping fall foliage. In the fall, the foliage is red, purple, orange and yellow! The mace-shaped seed pods are food for birds and small mammals. Sweetgum is also great for nesting birds and squirrels. Plant away from sidewalks and driveways as the seed pods can get a bit messy.


Note: Sweetgum has a shallow root system and should only be planted in the spring as the roots take 3-4 months to recover from the shock of transplanting.


Fun Facts: Resinous gum is used for creating chewing gum, incense, perfumes, folk medicines and flavorings. In pioneer days, the gum was obtained from the trunks by peeling the bark and scraping the resin-like solid beneath. Wood is second to Oaks for furniture, veneers, barrels and cabinetwork.


Maintenance: Requires regular watering for the first 2-3 years of its life. Pruning is not necessary except to remove dead or damaged branches.


Benefits: long living, clay soil tolerant, moderate drought tolerance, seed balls attract birds, pollinators, host plant to the Imperial Moth and Hickory Horned Devil, deer and rabbit resistant (rabbits may chew on young bark), the dried seed pods are great for crafts


Cultivars: 'Slender Silhouette' has a slender growth habit (5-6' wide) and is s great for tight spots or small yards. Getting to 40-50' tall it makes a great screen or tall hedge.


Companion Plants: Geum fragarioides - Barren Strawberry, Carex albicans - White-tinged Sedge, Luzula acuminata - Hairy Wood Rush, Symphyotrichum cordifolium - Blue Wood Aster

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References:

1. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/liquidambar-styraciflua/

2. https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=list2

3. https://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=1583



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