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Overview

Brief Summary

Hamamelidaceae -- Witch-hazel family

    Paul P. Kormanik

    Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), also called redgum,  sapgum, starleaf-gum, or bilsted, is a common bottom-land species  of the South where it grows biggest and is most abundant in the  lower Mississippi Valley. This moderate to rapidly growing tree  often pioneers in old fields and logged areas in the uplands and  Coastal Plain and may develop in a nearly pure stand. Sweetgurn  is one of the most important commercial hardwoods in the  Southeast and the handsome hard wood is put to a great many uses,  one of which is veneer for plywood. The small seeds are eaten by  birds, squirrels, and chipmunks. It is sometimes used as a shade  tree.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Paul P. Kormanik

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Taxonomy

Liquidambar was formerly placed in the witch-hazel family, Hamamelidaceae, but, on the basis of recent research, is now placed in the family Altingiaceae, along with the genus Altingia.The genus is relatively small and comprises 4 species:
  • 1 from the Americas
  • 2 from eastern Asia
  • 1 from the eastern Mediterranean
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Introduction

Liquidambar styraciflua is an attractive and widespread tree which is commonly grown as an ornamental street tree in the UK because of its tolerance of urban situations and striking autumn colour.It was first described by Linnaeus in the mid 18th century from a specimen sent to him by Pehr Kalm, one of his former students. The species was reportedly introduced to the UK in the late 17th century.It was almost certainly amongst the collections made by the famous early botanist and explorer Mark Catesby, in the south-eastern United States in the early 18th century, and in cultivation in Europe by the time it was described by Linnaeus.The tree is named for the reddish resin that exudes from the bark known as storax .
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Comprehensive Description

Miscellaneous Details

"Notes: Western Ghats, Native of Temperate America"
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Description

This tree is 60-90' tall at maturity, forming a trunk about 2½-4' across and a crown with spreading leafy branches. The crown of a young tree is pyramidal, while the crown of an old tree is ovoid. Trunk bark of mature trees is gray or gray-brown with irregular furrows and narrow disjointed ridges. Branch bark is more gray and smooth, while twigs are yellowish brown to brown, glabrous, and covered with scattered white  lenticels. Sometimes the twigs and smaller branches develop corky wings, otherwise they are wingless; small twigs are often bumpy from petiole scars. Young shoots are light green and glabrous. Alternate star-shaped leaves about 3-6" long and similarly across occur along the twigs and shoots; they have 5 palmate lobes (or less often 7 lobes) that are triangular-shaped and their margins are finely serrated. Sometimes, there are 1-2 small secondary lobes on the lower lobes of a leaf. The base of leaf is truncate to indented. For mature leaves, the upper surface is medium-dark green and glabrous, while the lower surface is medium green and mostly hairless, except for fine short hairs along the primary veins.  In addition to these hairs, sometimes the lower leaf surface is sparsely covered with short appressed hairs between the veins. The petioles are 2½-6" long, light green, and glabrous. Sweet Gum is monoecious, producing separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers on the same tree. The male inflorescence consists of a raceme of clustered male flowers about 1-2½" long; this raceme is greenish yellow and ascending. Individual male flowers are about 1/8" across, consisting of 4-8 fertile stamens that originate from a short disc. The stalks of the raceme are hairy. The female inflorescence consists of a green globoid head of female flowers about ¾" across; this floral head droops downward from a stalk (peduncle) about 1-3" long; the stalk is light green and glabrous. Individual female flowers are about 1/8" across, consisting of a 2-celled ovary with 2 spreading styles and 4-8 sterile stamens (staminodes). The blooming period occurs during mid- to late spring shortly after the emergence of vernal leaves. The flowers are cross-pollinated by the wind. During the summer, the female inflorescences become transformed into spiky seed capsules about 1-1½" across, turning brown at maturity during the autumn. Between each pair of hardened styles, each seed capsule splits open to release 1-2 seeds. Usually, only a minority of capsules in each head produce fertile seeds. These seeds are about 1/3" long, flattened, and winged; they are distributed by the wind. The empty heads of seed capsules often persist on the tree through the winter. In dry areas, the root system consists of a well-devloped taproot and lateral roots, while in soggy areas it consists of lateral roots that are shallow and widely spreading. The deciduous leaves can assume various colors during the autumn, including yellow, orange, red, pink, or dark purple.
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Biology

Liquidambar styraciflua is a medium sized tree that grows to a maximum height of 40m, though more commonly 30m.The species is easily identifiable by a number of characters.Leaf shape:
  • leaves are alternately arranged and up to 10cm across with 5–7 deep lobes lending a star-like appearance to them
  • they turn deep purple, red and yellow in the autumn, which make the tree a favourite for ornamental planting
  • the species is generally considered to be deciduous although occasionally, particularly in the southern part of its range, it may be semi-evergreen with little leaf fall
Fruit:
  • the prickly fruits are round in shape and often stay on the tree for some time
Bark:
  • the tree has grey-brown fissured bark and stout brown twigs, often with cork-like wings
The species is monoecious - male and female flowers are found separately on the same tree. The flowers however, are relatively inconspicuous.Liquidambar is sometimes confused with maples and plane trees. However, it can be distinguished from the maple by its leaves that are opposite rather than alternate. It can be distinguished from the plane tree by having fruits held singly rather than in bunches, and by the lack of peeling bark.
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Description

General: Sweetgum is a deciduous tree that is a member of the Hamamelidaceae, or witch-hazel family. It is named after the sweet balsamic sap which, when exposed, hardens into a fragrant gum. The trees can reach 30 to 40 meters in height and spread from 15 to 20 meters. The mature bark is rough, deeply furrowed and grayish brown. Young twigs are rusty red and frequently develop wings of corky bark. The star-shaped leaves, somewhat resemble maple leaves, except that they are arranged alternately instead of opposite. The leaves are 18 cm wide with long, thin petioles (6-15mm). Actively growing leaves are fragrant when crushed. They are palmate in shape with five to seven lobes and saw-toothed margins. Glossy-green in summer, the leaves turn bright yellow to deep red in the fall. The undersides of the leaves are pale green with a coating of fine white hairs. The small, greenish inconspicuous flowers have no true petals. The woody, ball-shaped, pendulous, burr-like fruits (3-4 cm) contain numerous, small seeds (1 cm) that are winged at one end. The seeds are contained in beak-like capsules to protrude from the surface (1 to 2 per capsule).

Distribution: Sweetgum is common in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont sections of the Southeastern United States. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Habitat: Sweetgum trees occur in moist or wet woods, tidal swamps, along streambanks, in clearings and old fields, and in low swampy bottomlands where they often form pure stands.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

Sweet gum, American sweet gum, red gum, bilsted, star-leaved gum, alligator-tree

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

Range Description

The species distribution is fragmented, subpopulations occur in southern U.S.A., 800 km to the north of the subpopulations in Tamaulipas in Mexico.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Tamil Nadu: Dindigul
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Sweetgum grows from Connecticut southward throughout the East to central
Florida and eastern Texas. It is found as far west as Missouri,
Arkansas, and Oklahoma and as far north as southern Illinois. It also
grows in scattered locations in northeastern and central Mexico,
Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua [14,24,42]. It
is cultivated in Hawaii [50].
  • 14. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906]
  • 24. Kormanik, Paul P. 1990. Liquidambar styraciflua L. sweetgum. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 400-405. [17401]
  • 42. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1956. Wood...colors and kinds. Agric. Handb. 101. Washington, DC. 36 p. [16294]
  • 50. St. John, Harold. 1973. List and summary of the flowering plants in the Hawaiian islands. Hong Kong: Cathay Press Limited. 519 p. [25354]

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Sweet Gum is occasional in southern Illinois, otherwise it is largely absent from natural areas of the state (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies along the NW range-limit for this tree; it common in many areas of southeastern United States. Habitats consist of depressions in upland woodlands, bottomland woodlands, riverbanks, drier areas of swamps, shaded gravelly seeps, and abandoned fields. Sweet Gum requires occasional disturbance to create openings in wooded areas that it can colonize. Otherwise, it is replaced by more shade-tolerant trees. Sweet Gum is often cultivated as a landscape tree in yards and parks.
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Occurrence in North America

AL AR DE FL GA HI IL IN KY LA
MD MS NJ OH OK PA SC TN TX VA
WV MEXICO

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Sweetgum grows from Connecticut southward throughout the East to  central Florida and eastern Texas. It is found as far west as  Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma and north to southern Illinois.  It also grows in scattered locations in northwestern and central  Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

   
  -The native range of sweetgum.


  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Paul P. Kormanik

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Liquidambar styraciflua var. mexicana Oerst.:
Mexico (Mesoamerica)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Liquidambar macrophylla Oerst.:
Nicaragua (Mesoamerica)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Liquidambar styraciflua L.:
Belize (Mesoamerica)
El Salvador (Mesoamerica)
Guatemala (Mesoamerica)
Honduras (Mesoamerica)
Mexico (Mesoamerica)
Nicaragua (Mesoamerica)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Ky., La., Md., Miss., Mo., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Va., W.Va.; Mexico; Central America (Belize and Honduras to Nicaragua).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: monoecious, tree

Sweetgum is a large, native, long-lived, deciduous tree that reaches
heights of 50 to 150 feet (15-45 m) at maturity [6,14]. It is easily
recognizable by the long-petioled, star-shaped leaves which have five
long-pointed, saw-toothed lobes. The brown bark is deeply furrowed into
narrow scaley plates or ridges. Young sweetgum trees have long conical
crowns, while mature trees have crowns that are round and spreading.
Sweetgum is monoecious with the male flowers in several clusters and the
female flowers hanging at the end of the same stalk. The ball-shaped
fruits contain many individual seed-bearing sections, and persist
throughout the winter [16,18].
  • 16. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 18. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
  • 6. Bonner, F. T. 1974. Liquidambar styraciflua L. sweetgum. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 505-507. [7695]
  • 14. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906]

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Description

Trees , to 41 m. Leaves : stipules linear-lanceolate, 3-4 mm, early deciduous, leaving 2 stipular scars adaxially near base of petiole; petioles (44-)60-100(-150) mm. Leaf blade palmately lobed, main lobes sometimes again dentate-lobed, 7-19(-25) × 4.4-16 cm; surfaces glabrous, except young leaves hairy on veins and main vein-axils at base with persistent reddish brown simple hairs. Staminate flowers in pedunculate clusters, 3-6 cm; perianth absent; stamens 4-8(-10) per flower, 150-176(-300) per cluster, falling after anthesis. Pistillate flowers without perianth; hypanthium disclike, with 5-8 staminodes around cycle of disc lobes; ovary (1-)2-locular; styles 2; stigmas introrsely curved. Capsular heads brown at maturity, globose, 2.5-4 cm diam. (including indurate styles). Seeds apically winged, 8-10 mm, marked with resin ducts; aborted seeds brownish, 1-2 mm, unwinged, irregular, resembling sawdust. 2 n = 32.
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Diagnostic Description

Diagnostic

Habit: Tree
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Synonym

Liquidambar barbata Stokes; L. gummifera Salisbury; L. macrophylla Oersted; L. styraciflua var. mexicana Oersted
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Habitat characteristics

More info for the term: tree

Sweetgum is very tolerant of different soils and sites but grows best on
the rich, moist, alluvial clay and loamy soils of river bottoms [28].
Throughout the Piedmont Plateau, sweetgum shows good growth on river and
stream bottoms and shows considerable potential on many upland sites
[24,34].

Common tree associates of sweetgum include spruce pine (Pinus glabra),
Virginia pine (P. virginiana), red maple (Acer rubrum), box elder (A.
negundo), pignut, shellbark, shagbark, and mockernut hickories (Carya
glabra, C. laciniosa, C. ovata, C. tomentosa), and sugarberry (Celtis
laevigata). Common understory associates include dogwood (Cornus spp.),
alder (Alnus spp.), and eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) [1,10,24].
  • 1. Abernethy, Y.; Turner, R. E. 1987. US forested wetlands: 1940-1980: Field-data surveys document changes and can guide national resource management. BioScience. 37(10): 721-727. [10575]
  • 10. Carter, Katherine K.; Snow, Albert G., Jr. 1990. Pinus virginiana Mill. Virginia pine. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Volume 1. Conifers. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 513-519. [13411]
  • 24. Kormanik, Paul P. 1990. Liquidambar styraciflua L. sweetgum. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 400-405. [17401]
  • 28. Lea, Russ; Frederick, D. J. 1990. Bottomland hardwood restoration in the southeastern United States. In: Hughes, H. Glenn; Bonnicksen, Thomas M., eds. Restoration `89: the new management challenge: Proceedings, 1st annual meeting of the Society for Ecological Restoration; 1989 January 16-20; Oakland, CA. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Society for Ecological Restoration: 292-300. [14706]
  • 34. McGarity, R. W. 1979. Young sweetgum responds to early merchantable thinning. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 3(4): 157-160. [10617]

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the terms: hardwood, swamp

44 Chestnut oak
51 White pine - chestnut oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
57 Yellow-poplar
61 River birch - sycamore
62 Silver maple - American elm
64 Sassafras - persimmon
65 Pin oak - sweetgum
70 Longleaf pine
74 Cabbage palmetto
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine - oak
78 Virginia pine - oak
79 Virginia pine
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
84 Slash pine
87 Sweetgum - yellow-poplar
88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut - oak - cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm
96 Overcup oak - water hickory
98 Pond pine
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
110 Black oak

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Sweet Gum is occasional in southern Illinois, otherwise it is largely absent from natural areas of the state (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies along the NW range-limit for this tree; it common in many areas of southeastern United States. Habitats consist of depressions in upland woodlands, bottomland woodlands, riverbanks, drier areas of swamps, shaded gravelly seeps, and abandoned fields. Sweet Gum requires occasional disturbance to create openings in wooded areas that it can colonize. Otherwise, it is replaced by more shade-tolerant trees. Sweet Gum is often cultivated as a landscape tree in yards and parks.
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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest

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Soils and Topography

Sweetgum is perhaps one of the most adaptable hardwood species in  its tolerance to different soil and site conditions. As is  characteristic of most hardwood species, it grows best on the  moist alluvial clay and loamy soils of river bottoms, but its  growth rate is commercially acceptable on a wide range of  Piedmont and Coastal Plain soils.

    Throughout the Piedmont Plateau, sweetgum makes good growth on the  river and stream bottoms and shows considerable potential on many  upland sites. In the Carolina and Georgia Piedmont, for example,  it is exceptionally competitive with other tree species on a wide  range of soils with a site index for loblolly pine of 75 (at age  50) or greater.

    In Maryland, sweetgum rarely makes acceptable growth on clay or  gravelly clay upland soils and is rarely found on well-drained,  sandy soils. Best growth rates are obtained on alluvial swamp  sites and on imperfectly and poorly drained soils having a high  clay content.

    In the lower Mississippi Valley, site quality for sweetgum  increases with the amount of exchangeable potassium in the soil  and decreases as clay percentage increases. The best sites are  those with medium-textured soils without a hardpan in the top 61  cm (24 in) and with moderate to good internal drainage. In the  Mississippi Delta, sweetgum is most common on silty clay or silty  clay loam ridges and silty clay flats in the first bottoms, which  are very moist, but not too poorly drained. Along the eastern  border of the Mississippi River, sweetgum is occasionally  dominant on the loessial soils of the alluvial flood plain. It is  characteristically dominant on the relatively impervious Alfisols  of the Illinoian till plain, including the very poorly drained  Avonburg, Blanchester, and Clermont silt loams (16).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Climate

Annual rainfall varies from 1020 mm (40 in) in the North to 1520  mm (60 in) in the South; the growing season rainfall is 510 to  610 mm (20 to 24 in). There are 180 frost-free days in the  northern part of its range and up to 320 in the southern part.  January temperatures are less than -1° C (30° F) in the  North and about 10° C (50° F) in the South; minimum  temperatures during the year are -21° C (-5° F) in the  North and -4° C (25° F) in the South. Maximum  temperature during the year is about 38° C (100° F) for  most of the range of sweetgum.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Fields, woodlands, flood plains, low hammocks, swamps, riverbanks; 0-800m.
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Dispersal

Establishment

Sweetgum is a hardy, ornamental tree that is valued for its shade as well as its lumber. They make attractive specimen trees all year and especially in the fall when the leaves turn brilliant colors before dropping in the fall. Young trees transplant best in the spring into well-watered soils. The roots are slow to develop. The trees may be planted in sun or part shade in soils that are medium to well drained and of medium to high fertility. The trees need medium to high moisture availability and are not suitable for dry areas. New trees volunteer readily from the seeds, however they generally do not germinate until the second year. The seeds are ripe when the fruit begins to lose its green color. Spread the fruits out to dry. When dry, they will open and release the seeds. Germination can be considerably increased if the seeds are prechilled for 15 to 90 days.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Associations

Faunal Associations

Compared to other trees, very few insects appear to feed on Sweet Gum. The caterpillars of the moths Actias luna (Luna Moth) and Paectes abrostoloides (Large Paectes) feed on the leaves of this tree, while larvae of the bark beetle Pityophthorus liquidambarus infest damaged or dead trees. The seeds are a source of food to some songbirds during the fall or winter
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© John Hilty

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Associated Forest Cover

Sweetgum is a major component of four forest cover types (6): Pin  Oak-Sweetgum (Society of American Foresters Type 65),  Sweetgum-Willow Oak (Type 92), Sycamore-Sweetgum-American Elm  (Type 94), and Sweetgum-Yellow-Poplar (Type 87). It is a minor  component of at least 20 other cover types including Chestnut Oak  (Type 44), White Oak-Black Oak-Northern Red Oak (Type 52), Black  Oak (Type 110), Yellow-Poplar (Type 57), River Birch-Sycamore  (Type 61), Silver Maple-American Elm (Type 62),  Sassafras-Persimmon (Type 64), Longleaf Pine (Type70), Longleaf  Pine-Slash Pine (Type 83), Shortleaf Pine (Type 75), Virginia  Pine (Type 79), Loblolly Pine (Type 81), Loblolly Pine-Shortleaf  Pine (Type 80), Pond Pine (Type 98), Willow Oak-Water  Oak-Diamondleaf Oak (Type 88), Sugarberry-American Elm-Green Ash  (Type 93), Baldcypress Tupelo (Type 102), Water Tupelo-Swamp  Tupelo (Type 103), Sweetbay-Swamp Tupelo-Redbay ('Type 104), and  Cabbage Palmetto (Type 74).

    Among the most common associated tree species are red maple (Acer  rubrum), boxelder (A. negundo), river birch (Betula  nigra), pignut, shellbark, shagbark, and mockernut hickories  (Carya glabra, C. laciniosa, C. ovata, C. tomentosa), sugarberry  (Celtis laevigata), shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata),  and loblolly pine (P. taeda). Several species  of dogwood (Cornus) and alder (Alnus), as well as  eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), commonly occur as  understory species with sweetgum.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Paul P. Kormanik

Source: Silvics of North America

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Diseases and Parasites

Damaging Agents

Few severe diseases are associated with  sweetgum, but small mammals and grazing animals have caused  isolated problems. Seedlings may be badly damaged by hogs, goats,  or cattle in different areas. Rodents, particularly mice, and  rabbits have caused considerable damage to young plantations in  several areas (16). Beavers in the Georgia Piedmont cause  impoundments and girdle healthy trees.

    Fire may be one of the major agents of damage to this species.  Summer fires damage young sweetgum more than winter fires. Fire  scars on living trees furnish entrance points for both insects  and diseases. As long as the sapwood is not killed by fire, basal  wounds are often covered with a gum exudation that protects them.  With repeated fires, however, a tree is apt to have some sapwood  killed, and fungi and insects may become established. In the  lower delta of the Mississippi River, 42 percent of the sweetgum  trees burned once showed decay 8 years later; 79 percent of the  trees burned repeatedly during an 8-year period showed decay  (16).

    The four most common decay organisms reported in the Mississippi  River Delta were Fomes geotropus, Pleurotus ostreatus,  Lentinus trigrinus, and Ganoderma lucidum (16).

    Other diseases of sweetgum that may be important occasionally are  an abiotic leader dieback or blight, twig canker, and trunk  lesion caused by Botryosphaeria ribis, and bleeding  necrosis, which may be a combination of sweetgum blight and B.  ribis trunk lesion (8). Of these, only sweetgum blight is  widely distributed and has caused heavy mortality in several  States. It has received intensive study in Maryland and  Mississippi. Drought appears to be the primary cause. In the  lower Mississippi River flood plain, blight severity was found to  be correlated with soil properties affecting moisture supply.  Severity of dieback was reduced by 68 percent in 2 years by   irrigating when soil moisture dropped below 40 percent of field  capacity (16). There is a good possibility that sweetgum blight  is most common in stands of root sprout origin. In the Georgia  Piedmont and Coastal Plain of South Carolina, many groups of  trees are composed of stems that are of root sprout origin and  depend on a single root system complex for water uptake. During  prolonged droughts such as occurred in the 1950's, this limited  root system may not be adequate to satisfy the water requirements  of the sprout complex, and many of the stressed trees may suffer  blight.

    Except for leaffeeders, insects usually attack only trees that are  already damaged, decadent, or dead. These include the bark  beetles (Dryocoetes betulae and Pityophthorus  liquidambarus), the ambrosia beetles, which include Platypus  compositus, and the darkling beetles (Strongylium spp.).  The leaffeeders include the forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma  disstria) and the luna moth (Actias luna) (1). In  addition, a treehopper (Strictocephala militaris) is  known to spend its entire life cycle on sweetgum in northeast  Georgia but is not considered to be harmful (5).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Paul P. Kormanik

Source: Silvics of North America

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General Ecology

Plant Response to Fire

Sweetgum generally sprouts prolifically when top-killed by fire.
Repeated annual summer burns, however, will eventually deplete
carbohydrate reserves and kill the plant [41,48].
  • 41. Riebold, R. J. 1955. Summer burns for hardwoods control in loblolly pine. Fire Control Notes. 16(1): 34-35. [11602]
  • 48. Waldrop, Thomas A.; Van Lear, David H.; Lloyd, F. Thomas; Harms, William R. 1987. Long-term studies of prescribed burning in loblolly pine forests of the Southeastern Coastal Plain. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-45. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 23 p. [11596]

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Broad-scale Impacts of Fire

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Fire scars on living trees provide entry points for insects and
diseases. As long as the sapwood is not killed by fire, basal wounds
are often covered with a gum exudation that protects them. After
repeated fires, however, a tree is apt to have some sapwood killed and
fungi and insects may become established [24,47].
  • 24. Kormanik, Paul P. 1990. Liquidambar styraciflua L. sweetgum. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 400-405. [17401]
  • 47. Waldrop, Thomas A.; Lloyd, F. Thomas. 1991. Forty years of prescribed burning on the Santee fire plots: effects on overstory and midstory vegetation. In: Nodvin, Stephen C.; Waldrop, Thomas A., eds. Fire and the environment: ecological and cultural perspectives: Proceedings of an international symposium; 1990 March 20-24; Knoxville, TN. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-69. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 45-50. [16632]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

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Fire typically top-kills sweetgum. Hot summer fires may deplete
carbohydrate reserves and eventually kill the tree [41,48].
  • 41. Riebold, R. J. 1955. Summer burns for hardwoods control in loblolly pine. Fire Control Notes. 16(1): 34-35. [11602]
  • 48. Waldrop, Thomas A.; Van Lear, David H.; Lloyd, F. Thomas; Harms, William R. 1987. Long-term studies of prescribed burning in loblolly pine forests of the Southeastern Coastal Plain. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-45. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 23 p. [11596]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the terms: caudex, root crown

survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex
off-site colonizer; seed carried by wind; postfire years 1 and 2

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Fire Ecology

More info for the term: root crown

Fire is one of the major agents of damage to sweetgum. Its relatively
thin bark make it highly susceptible to fire [21]. Following top-kill
by fire, sweetgum sprouts from the stump or root crown [41,48].
  • 21. Hodgkins, Earl J. 1958. Effects of fire on undergrowth vegetation in upland southern pine forests. Ecology. 39(1): 36-46. [7632]
  • 41. Riebold, R. J. 1955. Summer burns for hardwoods control in loblolly pine. Fire Control Notes. 16(1): 34-35. [11602]
  • 48. Waldrop, Thomas A.; Van Lear, David H.; Lloyd, F. Thomas; Harms, William R. 1987. Long-term studies of prescribed burning in loblolly pine forests of the Southeastern Coastal Plain. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-45. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 23 p. [11596]

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Successional Status

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More info for the terms: natural, tree

Sweetgum is classified as shade intolerant [7]. In pure stands on
bottomland sites, young sweetgum is able to endure some shade and
crowding. With increase in age the tree becomes less tolerant of
competition. Following natural decrease in the canopy, enough sunlight
reaches the ground to permit an understory stand to develop [12,24].
Although sweetgum is an early invader, it seldom becomes a dominant
species [20,31].
  • 7. Borthwick, H. A. 1957. Light effects on tree growth and seed germination. A symposium on forest tree physiology; 1957 June 13-14; Wooster, OH. In: The Ohio Journal of Science; 57(6): 357-364. [10162]
  • 12. Clatterbuck, Wayne K. 1989. Even-aged mixtures of cherrybark oak and loblolly pine in southwestern Arkansas. In: Waldrop, Thomas A., ed. Proceedings of pine-hardwood mixtures: a symposium on management and ecology of the type; 1989 April 18-19; Atlanta, GA. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-58. Asheville, SC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 123-127. [10268]
  • 20. Hartnett, David C.; Krofta, Douglas M. 1989. Fifty-five years of post-fire succession in a southern mixed hardwood forest. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 116(2): 107-113. [9153]
  • 24. Kormanik, Paul P. 1990. Liquidambar styraciflua L. sweetgum. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 400-405. [17401]
  • 31. Lotti, Thomas; Klawitter, Ralph A.; LeGrande, W. P. 1960. Prescribed burning for understory control in loblolly pine stands of the coastal plain. Station Pap. No. 116. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 19 p. [15417]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the term: tree

Seed production and dissemination: Sweetgum produces an abundance of
lightweight seed. The tree begins to produce seed when 20 to 30 years
old, and crops remain abundant for 150 years. Fair seed crops are
produced each year, with bumper crops every 2 to 3 years [2,24]. Under
conditions of full sunlight and rich moist soil, each fruit may average
as many as 50 sound seeds. Seed is primarily dispersed by wind; the
maximum dispersal distance recorded was 600 feet (183 m) but
ordinarily 96 percent of the seed fall within 200 feet (61 m) of the
point of release [24,38].

Seedling development: Sod is not a serious hindrance to seed
germination; however, when additional sweetgum production is desired in
partially cutover stands, exposed mineral soil and abundant direct
sunlight are necessary [4,22]. Root development varies with the growing
site. A deep taproot and numerous horizontal rootlets usually develop
early, but in wet areas the root system is shallow and wide spreading,
with little or no taproot [25,39]. On an abandoned field adjacent to a
swamp in Maryland, 5-year-old seedlings averaged 8.7 feet (2.6 m) in
height [24]. On favorable sites in the lower Mississippi Valley,
seedlings grow as much as 2 feet (0.6 m) during the first year [24,49].

Vegetative reproduction: Sweetgum is capable of sprouting until it is
approximately 50 years old. Although sweetgum seedlings reach a height
of 4.5 feet (1.4 m) in 3 to 5 years, sprouts often reach this height in
one growing season. Ten-year old sprouts frequently have the same size
and appearance as 18- to 20-year-old seedlings in the same stand
[23,49].
  • 2. Allen, James A.; Kennedy, Harvey E., Jr. 1989. Bottomland hardwood reforestation in the lower Mississippi Valley. Slidell, LA: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wetlands Research Center; Stoneville, MS: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experimental Station. 28 p. [15293]
  • 4. Belcher, Earl W., Jr.; Hitt, Robert G. 1965. Eastern Tree Seed Laboratory: 12th annual report, fiscal year 1965. Macon, GA: Eastern Tree Seed Laboratory. 66 p. In cooperation with: Region 8 and the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, U.S. Forest Service; Georgia Forestry Commission and Georgia Forest Research Council. [6522]
  • 22. Hunt, Ron; Cleveland, Glenn. 1978. Cultural treatments affect growth, volume, and survival of sweetgum, sycamore, and loblolly pine. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 2(2): 55-59. [10633]
  • 23. Kaufert, F. H. 1933. Fire and decay injury in the Southern bottomland hardwoods. Journal of Forestry. 31: 64-67. [2694]
  • 24. Kormanik, Paul P. 1990. Liquidambar styraciflua L. sweetgum. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 400-405. [17401]
  • 25. Kormanik, P. P.; Ruehle, J. L. 1987. Lateral root development may define nursery seedling quality. In: Phillips, Douglas R., compiler. Proceedings. 4th biennial southern silvicultural research conference; 1986 November 4-6; Atlanta, GA. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-42. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 225-229. [4199]
  • 38. Paton, Robert R.; Secrest, Edmund; Ezri, Harold A. 1944. Ohio forest plantings. Bull. 647. Wooster, OH: Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station. 77 p. [6974]
  • 39. Powell, Susan W.; Day, Frank P., Jr. 1991. Root production in four communities in the Great Dismal Swamp. American Journal of Botany. 78(2): 288-297. [14595]
  • 49. Wenger, Karl F. 1953. The sprouting of sweetgum in relation to season of cutting and carbohydrate content. Plant Physiology. 28: 35-49. [13819]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

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More info for the term: phanerophyte

Phanerophyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: tree

Tree

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Fire Management Considerations

Fire has been demonstrated to be a good management tool for controlling
sweetgum. In the Coastal Plain of South Carolina, five consecutive
summer fires killed 85 percent or more of the root stalks of sweetgum.
Winter fires did not kill appreciable numbers of root stalks but did
top-kill most sweetgum 2 inches (5 cm) or less d.b.h. [11].
  • 11. Chen, Ming-Yih; Hodgkins, Earl J.; Watson, W. J. 1975. Prescribed burning for improving pine production and wildlife habitat in the hilly coastal plain of Alabama. Bull. No. 473. Auburn, AL: Auburn University Agricultural Experiment Station. 19 p. [9909]

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Reaction to Competition

Sweetgum is most accurately  classed as intolerant of shade. It must have adequate sunlight to  reach its potential. Young sweetgum are able to endure some  crowding in pure stands on bottom lands. With increasing age,  however, they become less able to endure competition and may  respond poorly to release because crown regeneration capacity is  reduced. Sweetgum of all vigor classes tend to develop epicormic   branches when stands are thinned excessively. Moderate thinnings  stimulate epicormic branches, primarily on trees with light to  moderate crown development (12). On upland sites in the southern  and southeastern regions, sweetgum seedlings or sprouts are often  present in the pine forest understory. Removal of the pine  overstory usually results in rapid growth of the sweetgum. This  response may be attributed to logging damage to the original  understory stems, which then resprout and grow rapidly without  overhead competition.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Paul P. Kormanik

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Rooting Habit

Early root development varies with site  conditions. On well-drained bottom-land sites a deep taproot with  numerous well-developed laterals usually develops rapidly. On wet  sites with poor drainage, however, the root system is shallow and  wide spreading, with little tendency shown for taproot  development. On gravelly ridges, hillsides, and upland piedmont  sites, sweetgum develops a particularly strong taproot and is   very resistant to wind (16).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Source: Silvics of North America

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Distribution ecology

Liquidambar styraciflua is common throughout the eastern United States and ranges from Connecticut in the north to Florida in the south, and from Texas in the west to Illinois in the east.The species also ranges down through Central America, possibly as far south as El Salvador, but certainly as far as Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.It is usually found growing at low elevations in the United States, but at higher altitudes in Central America, often in association with high level pine and oak forest.Liquidambar styracifluais a fast growing tree most commonly found growing in moist alluvial soils and swampy woodlands. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types, but fails to thrive in shallow chalky soils.
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

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Sweetgum flowers appear from March to May, depending on latitude and
weather. The fruit ripens from September to November; the fruit often
persists through the entire winter [6,24].
  • 6. Bonner, F. T. 1974. Liquidambar styraciflua L. sweetgum. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 505-507. [7695]
  • 24. Kormanik, Paul P. 1990. Liquidambar styraciflua L. sweetgum. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 400-405. [17401]

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Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering spring (Mar-May).
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Reproduction

Vegetative Reproduction

Few data are available on the  early development of natural stands of sweetgum throughout its  broad range. The limited, earlier data (16) indicate that workers  were not aware of the tendency of sweetgum to regenerate from  root sprouts that originated from suppressed root buds (11).  Stand disturbances thought to produce ideal seedbed conditions  were actually optimum conditions for suppressed bud release and   subsequent root sprout development. A South Carolina Coastal  Plain area thought to have been successfully regenerated with  sweetgum seed trees was later found to be regenerated primarily  from root sprouts (4,7, 11).

    The importance of root sprout formation with sweetgum regeneration  is evident from observations made in natural stands of mixed  pines and hardwoods in the Georgia Piedmont that have been logged  for sawtimber. In most of the stands examined, advance  reproduction of sweetgum was clearly evident, accounting for 10  to 60 percent of all hardwood production. The invasion of such  stands by young sweetgum has usually been attributed to natural  seeding, but most of the young, vigorously growing stems observed  in the Georgia Piedmont were of sprout origin. It is not uncommon  to find as many as 40 or more stems from seedling to sapling size  on the root systems of a single parent tree. Additional work with  root sprouts in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina showed that  sprout height after 8 years was directly correlated with the  diameter of the lateral root from which the sprout originated;  the larger the root the taller the sprout.

    The persistence of root sprouts was revealed when soil was removed  from several 0.04-ha (0.1-acre) plots on a Georgia Piedmont  bottom-land site that supported pure stands of sweetgum. Trees  ranged in d.b.h. from about 25 to 41 cm (10 to 16 in) and varied  from dominant to intermediate in the crown canopy. More than 70  percent of the trees were of sprout origin on most plots. Other  stands that were primarily of seed origin were later found on  abandoned agricultural lands. These observations indicate that a  significant portion of sweetgum regeneration following logging  can be expected to originate from root sprouts. The long-term  development and management of these stands have yet to be  clarified.

    Plantation establishment of sweetgum is becoming increasingly  important throughout the southern region, and it is rapidly  becoming the hardwood species most commonly established. Results  of early plantation establishment and development have been quite  variable. This variability in growth has been attributed to  seedling quality. Seedlings with a large root-collar diameter  achieve the best growth, and planting seedlings with a  root-collar diameter of less than 6 mm (0.25 in) is not  recommended (2). In a Georgia Piedmont bottom-land site,  seedlings at age 7 ranged in height from 3.8 to 6.2 in (12.4 to  20.2 ft). After 7 years on a strip mine in Indiana, sweetgum  averaged 2.1 in (7 ft). On favorable sites in the lower  Mississippi Valley, seedling height growth of 0.6 m/yr (2 ft/yr)  has been reported. On upland sites, 5-year height growth varies  considerably, from 1.1 in (3.6 ft) on an eroded field to 2.0 in  (6.5 ft) on areas reverting to woody cover. It is this slow,  early growth of sweetgum plantations that is of concern to  silviculturists because it necessitates expensive cultivation to  reduce weed competition and thereby maintain acceptable survival  until height growth begins. First-order lateral root morphology  of nursery-lifted sweetgum seedlings reflects their future  competitiveness in the field. Early growth and survival can be  acceptable, even in moderate to severe drought years, if  nursery-lifted seedlings have five or more first-order lateral  roots exceeding 1 mm (0.04 in) in diameter at the junction with  the taproot. As many as one third of all seedlings in selected  families growing in one nursery did not meet these standards  making them poorly competitive in a forest environment (10).

    Recent work suggests that vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae can  significantly improve seedling quality from nurseries (9,13,14)  and alter this pattern of low growth so commonly encountered  during the first 3- to 5-year period following plantation  establishment. On an upland Piedmont site in South Carolina, for  example, total heights on sweetgum plots after three growing  seasons have been observed to exceed the 2.0 in (6.5 ft) reported  after five growing seasons from areas just reverting to woody  cover. On a denuded borrow pit in the South Carolina Piedmont,  soil amended with as little as 13 mm (0.5 in) of sewage sludge  evenly distributed and disked into the soil resulted in  fourth-year height of 2.8 in (9.2 ft) for sweetgum (3). The  seedlings used in this experiment were heavily mycorrhizal with a  vesicular-arbuscular fungus (Glomus mosseae) at  outplanting.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seedling Development

Germination is epigeal (17). Some  sod covers are not a serious hindrance to seed germination but  can seriously affect seedling survival during seasons of  below-average rainfall. Fescue, however, has been shown to have  adverse allelopathic effects on sweetgum (19). From 40 to 60  percent first-year mortality was observed on sweetgum plots  overseeded with fescue in a South Carolina Piedmont site (3). The  mortality at the South Carolina site was due directly to  competition and was not an allelopathic response.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Seed Production and Dissemination

Trees begin to produce  seeds when 20 to 30 years old and continue production until at  least 150 years of age. Seed production varies widely depending  on climatic conditions during the growing season. Under optimum  conditions, seed balls may average as many as 56 sound seeds per  ball, or as few as 7 or 8 under less favorable conditions  (16,17). Seed balls have been collected for more than 12 years at  the Forestry Sciences Laboratory, Athens, GA, and scientists  there expect 20 to 30 sound seeds per ball in an average year but  have found as few as 5 per ball in a bad year. Low percentages of  sound seed appear to be correlated with prolonged summer drought  and excessive soil moisture stress during the growing season in  northeast Georgia.

    There are approximately 365 g (0.8 lb) of clean seeds per 35  liters (1 bushel) of balls, and the number of seeds per 454 g (1  lb) varies from 65,000 to 98,400, with an average of 82,000 (17).  Seed soundness may reach 80 to 90 percent in a good seed year but  may drop to 10 to 20 percent in a bad seed year. There are no  data relating to the number of sound seed required for normal  seed-ball development. The maximum distance of seed dispersal  recorded is 183 m (600 ft), but ordinarily 96 percent of the seed  falls within 61 m (200 ft) of the point of release (16).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Flowering and Fruiting

Sweetgum is monoecious. The small,  greenish flowers bloom from March to early May, depending on  latitude and weather conditions. Both the staminate and  pistillate flowers occur in heads. The staminate inflorescences  are racemes; the solitary pistillate flowers are globose heads  that form the multiple heads, 2.5 to 3.8 cm (1 to 1.5 in) in  diameter, of small, two-celled capsules. The lustrous green color  of the fruiting heads fades to yellow as maturity is reached in  September to November. The beaklike capsules open at this time,  and the small winged seeds, one or two per capsule, are then  readily disseminated by wind. However, the seed balls can be  safely collected for seed extraction several weeks before ball  discoloration occurs without harming the seed. Empty fruiting  heads often remain on the trees over winter. Fair seed crops  occur every year and bumper crops about every 3 years. The  staminate and pistillate flowers are quite sensitive to cold and  are often damaged by frost (17).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Growth

Growth and Yield

Young sweetgum have a strong excurrent  growth habit and long, conical crowns that usually prune  themselves readily under forest conditions. There is a wide range  in branch angle from acute to almost 90' in young trees.  Depending on site quality, and at a definite stage in  development, sweetgum. becomes decurrent as the trees mature, and  the crown becomes rounded and wide spreading. The tops of  overmature trees are usually broken or stag headed.

    The excurrent growth habit is maintained longer on the more moist,  fertile bottom-land sites than on the drier, less fertile upland  sites. However, on excessively dry sites the excurrent growth  habit is characteristically maintained for many years and may  represent a morphological growth response mediated by moisture  availability.

    The average 10-year diameter growth for overmature sweetgum in the  southern region was reported to be 4.8 cm (1.9 in), and for  immature trees of medium to high vigor, 8.9 cm (3.5 in) (16). In  the Mississippi Delta, pure stands of sweetgum average 84 to 112  m³ /ha (6,000 to 8,000 fbm/acre). Very good stands have 210  to 280 m³/ha (15,000 to 20,000 fbm/acre) with up to 420 to  560 m³ /ha (30,000 to 40,000 fbm/acre) on small, selected  areas. On ridges and upland sites, stands are usually less dense  than on bottom-land sites.

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

No hybrids of sweetgum are known to exist. There is considerable  evidence, however, that differences between ecotypes, such as  swamps and uplands, should play an important role in selection of  mother trees for artificial regeneration programs (15).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Liquidambar macrophylla

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Barcode data: Liquidambar styraciflua

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Liquidambar macrophylla

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Liquidambar styraciflua

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 10
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LR/lc
Lower Risk/least concern

Red List Criteria

Version
2.3

Year Assessed
1998
  • Needs updating

Assessor/s
Americas Regional Workshop (Conservation & Sustainable Management of Trees, Costa Rica, November 1996)

Reviewer/s

Contributor/s
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Range extending from Connecticut southward and westward to Texas, reappearing on the mountains of central and southern Mexico and the highlands of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).

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Population

Population
In USA the species is abundant and the abandonment of farmlands may potentially result in rising subpopulation numbers.
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Threats

Major Threats
The major threat to the subpopulations elsewhere is increasing conversion of the habitat for agriculture and grazing, which can prevent regrowth. The timber is harvested for international trade mainly from the lower Mississippi valley. In Honduras balsam is tapped from the trees for commercial application.
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Management

Management considerations

Sweetgum's ability to sprout quickly and persistently makes it one of the
most serious competitors of pine seedlings in southeastern forests.
Silvicultural practices have called for the control of sweetgum in areas
where it competes heavily with pine seedlings [49]. Basal applications
of Garlon 4 top-killed 81 percent of 2 inch (5 cm) d.b.h or smaller
stems [35,36].
  • 35. McLemore, B. F.; Cain, M. D. 1988. A test of basal sprays for controlling hardwood brush and trees. In: Environmental legislation and its effect on weed science: Proceedings, 41st annual meeting Southern Weed Science Soc; 1988 January 18-20; Tulsa, OK. Volume 41. [Place of publication unknown]
  • 36. Miller, James H. 1990. Streamline basal application of herbicide for small-stem hardwood control. Southern Journal of Applied Forestry. 14(4): 161-165. [13538]
  • 49. Wenger, Karl F. 1953. The sprouting of sweetgum in relation to season of cutting and carbohydrate content. Plant Physiology. 28: 35-49. [13819]

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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The trees are relatively trouble-free and generally do not require pruning. The fruits can look somewhat messy in fall and winter when they drop, especially onto a manicured lawn where they can also make mowing difficult. Avoid planting near a patio or sidewalk where the fruits can be painful when stepped on with bare feet.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG, Folk medicine, Building materials/timber

Comments: A resin or balsam, excreted from wounds in the bark, is collected in considerable quantities in Mexico and Central America and has been much used for medicinal purposes from the earliest times. In the U.S. used for construction, furniture, veneers, etc.

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

More info for the terms: cover, reclamation

Sweetgum stem cuttings have been successfully planted for streambank
protection and reclamation of sites disturbed by coal strip mining
[29,46].

Sweetgum growth and survival was good when planted on favorable sites
but decreased when seedlings were planted concurrently with ground cover
or in previously established cover of grasses and legumes on mined sites
in southeastern Indiana [3,8].
  • 3. Andersen, C. P.; Bussler, B. H.; Chaney, W. R.; [and others]
  • 8. Brothers, Timothy S. 1988. Indiana surface-mine forests: historical development and composition of a human-created vegetation complex. Southeastern Geographer. 28(1): 19-33. [8787]
  • 29. Limstrom, G. A.; Merz, R. W. 1949. Rehabilitation of lands stripped for coal in Ohio. Tech. Pap. No. 113. Columbus, OH: The Ohio Reclamation Association. 41 p. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Central States Forest Experiment Station. [4427]
  • 46. Vogel, Willis G. 1981. A guide for revegetating coal minespoils in the eastern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-68. Broomall, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 190 p. [15577]

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Cover Value

Sweetgum snags are used as breeding sites for a variety of birds and
mammals [13].
  • 13. Dickson, James G.; Conner, Richard N.; Williamson, J. Howard. 1983. Snag retention increases bird use of a clear-cut. Journal of Wildlife Management. 47(3): 799-804. [13855]

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Wood Products Value

More info for the term: fuel

Sweetgum is primarily used for lumber, veneer, and plywood. The lumber
is used to make boxes, crates, furniture, interior trim, and millwork.
The veneer is used primarily for crates, baskets, and interior woodwork.
Sweetgum is also used for crossties and fuel, and small amounts go into
fencing, excelsior, and pulpwood [37,42].
  • 42. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1956. Wood...colors and kinds. Agric. Handb. 101. Washington, DC. 36 p. [16294]
  • 37. Millers, Imants; Shriner, David S.; Rizzo, David. 1989. History of hardwood decline in the eastern United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-126. Bromall, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 75 p. [10925]

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Other uses and values

Medicinally, sweetgum is known as "copalm balsam" and the resinous gum
is used extensively in Mexico and Europe as a substitute for storax.
Various ointments and syrups are prepared from the resinous gum and are
used in the treatment of dysentery and diarrhea. The gum is sometimes
chewed by children, and it is also used as a perfuming agent in soap
[45].

The beautiful red and yellow color variations of sweetgum's autumn
foliage make it highly prized as an ornamental [33,45].
  • 33. Martin, Alexander C.; Zim, Herbert S.; Nelson, Arnold L. 1951. American wildlife and plants. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. 500 p. [4021]
  • 45. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Sweetgum has moderate value as a winter browse [5]. In the Oconee
National Forest of Georgia, sweetgum was lightly to moderately browsed
by white-tailed deer during the fall and winter [19]. The seeds are
eaten by birds, squirrels, and chipmunks [33].
  • 33. Martin, Alexander C.; Zim, Herbert S.; Nelson, Arnold L. 1951. American wildlife and plants. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. 500 p. [4021]
  • 5. Blair, Robert M.; Short, Henry L.; Epps, E. A., Jr. 1977. Seasonal nutrient yield and digestibility of deer forage from a young pine plantation. Journal of Wildlife Management. 41(4): 667-676. [16963]
  • 19. Harlow, Richard F.; Shrauder, Paul A.; Seehorn, Monte E. 1975. Deer browse resources of the Oconee National Forest. Res. Pap. SE-137. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 16 p. [14602]

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Cultivation

The preference is full or partial sun, moist conditions, and fertile soil containing loam or clay-loam. Alkaline soil can cause difficulty in absorbing iron and other nutrients, therefore it should be avoided. Occasional flooding is tolerated if it is relatively short in duration. Seedheads are produced on trees about 25 years old and annually thereafter. The biggest drawback in cultivating this tree is the abundance of spiky seedheads that fall to the ground from autumn to spring. In addition to their unsightly appearance, they are difficult to walk on and require additional labor to remove.
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Nutritional Value

Sweetgum is relatively high in protein and caloric content. Mean
nutrient values for sweetgum on unburned plots on the Siecke
State Forest, Texas, varied seasonally as follows [27]:

crude N-free
protein fat fiber extract ash phosphorus calcium
Spring 10.76 2.78 9.08 58.49 3.84 6.13 0.63
Summer 7.00 2.78 12.09 59.39 3.73 0.07 0.86
Fall 5.74 3.09 11.08 59.72 5.33 0.06 1.28
Winter 4.42 2.51 20.23 54.64 3.21 0.06 1.70
  • 27. Lay, Daniel W. 1957. Browse quality and the effects of prescribed burning in southern pine forests. Journal of Forestry. 55: 342-347. [7633]

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Special Uses

Sweetgum is used principally for lumber, veneer, plywood, slack  cooperage, railroad ties, fuel, and pulpwood. The lumber is made  into boxes and crates, furniture, radio-, television-, and  phonograph cabinets, interior trim, and millwork. The veneer and  plywood are used for boxes, pallets, crates, baskets, and  interior woodwork (18).

  • Burns, Russell M., and Barbara H. Honkala, technical coordinators. 1990. Silvics of North America: 1. Conifers; 2. Hardwoods.   Agriculture Handbook 654 (Supersedes Agriculture Handbook 271,Silvics of Forest Trees of the United States, 1965).   U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. vol.2, 877 pp.   http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm External link.
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Uses

Ethnobotanic: The sweetgum tree was used by the Cherokee, Choctaw, Koasati, Rappahannock and other Native American tribes for various purposes. The hardened gum, or rosin from the tree was used as chewing gum. A piece of the bark was knocked from the tree. After one week, the sap from the wound was hardened and could be collected and used for chewing gum. Tea was made from both the fruits and the bark. The hardened sap was rolled up and then placed in a dog’s nose to treat distemper. A salve was made by mixing the plant with animal tallow for application to wounds, cuts, sores, bruises, and ulcers. The plant was boiled until a scum rose to the top. This scum was then mixed with the roots of Obolaria virginica and used as a dressing for cuts and bruises. The roots were boiled into a strong tea to treat skin sores that were possibly caused by small worms under the skin. A “drawing plaster” was made from the gum. Ten to a dozen drops of the sap were taken before meals to reduce fevers. The sap and inner bark were used to treat diarrhea and dysentery. The bark was used to make an infusion that was used as a sedative for nervous patients and for patients who were well in the day but sick during the night. The plant was used to treat colic, internal diseases and to “comfort the heart.”

Wildlife: Goldfinches, purplefinches, mallard ducks, bobwhite quails, Carolina chickadees, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, white-throated sparrows, towhees, Carolina wrens, squirrels, and chipmunks eat the seeds of sweetgum trees. Beavers use the wood for constructing dams.

Other: Liquidambars are valued for their timber and for the aromatic sap, called styrax. The timber provides pulp, veneer and lumber. The wood is used in cabinetry, home interiors, boxes and utensils. The balsamic sap is used as an ingredient in both medicine and perfume.

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Wikipedia

Liquidambar styraciflua

Liquidambar styraciflua, commonly called the American sweetgum, sweet-gum[1] (sweet gum in the UK),[2] hazel pine,[3] American-storax,[1] bilsted,[4] red-gum,[1] satin-walnut,[1] star-leaved gum[4] or alligator-wood,[1] is a deciduous tree in the genus Liquidambar native to warm temperate areas of eastern North America and tropical montane regions of Mexico and Central America. Sweetgum it's one of the main forest trees valuable in south-eastern of United States and popular ornamental tree in temperate climates, it is recognizable by the combination of its five-pointed star-shaped leaves and its hard, spiked fruits. It is currently classified in the plant family Altingiaceae, but was formerly considered a member of the Hamamelidaceae.[5]

Names[edit]

This plant's genus name Liquidambar was first given by Linnaeus in 1753 from [the Latin] liquidus, fluid, and the Arabic ambar, amber, in allusion to the fragrant terebinthine juice or gum which exudes from the tree. Its specific epithet styraciflua is an old generic name meaning flowing with styrax (a plant resin).[6] The names "storax" and "styrax" have long been confusingly applied to the aromatic gum or resin of this species, that of L. orientalis of Turkey, and to the resin better known as benzoin resin from various tropical trees in the genus Styrax.

The common name "sweet gum" refers to the species' "sweetish gum",[7] contrasting with the black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), only distantly related, with which the sweet gum overlaps broadly in range. The species is also known as the "red gum", for its reddish bark.[7]

History[edit]

The earliest known published record of Liquidambar styraciflua is in a work by Spanish naturalist Francisco Hernández published posthumously in 1651, in which he describes the species as a large tree producing a fragrant gum resembling liquid amber, whence the genus name Liquidambar. In Ray's Historia Plantarum (1686) it is called Styrax liquida.

The species was introduced into Europe in 1681 by John Banister, the missionary collector sent out by Bishop Compton, who planted it in the palace gardens at Fulham in London, England.

Fossil record[edit]

An ancestor of Liquidambar styraciflua is known from Tertiary-aged fossils in Alaska, Greenland, and the mid-continental plateau of North America, much further north than Liquidambar now grows. A similar plant is also found in Miocene deposits of the Tertiary of Europe.[8]

Distribution[edit]

Sweetgum is one of the most common hardwoods in the southeastern United States, where it occurs naturally at low to moderate altitudes from southwestern Connecticut south to central Florida, and west to Illinois, southern Missouri, and eastern Texas, but not colder areas of Appalachia or the Midwestern states. The species also occurs in Mexico from southern Nuevo León south to Chiapas, as well as in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. In Mexico and Central America, it is a characteristic plant of cloud forests, growing at middle elevations in various mountainous areas where the climate is humid and more temperate.[6]

The US government distribution maps for this species are incorrect concerning the southern limit of distribution in Florida. This species occurs abundantly at Highlands Hammock State Park, Sebring, Highlands County, FL, and even southwest of Lake Okeechobee. (see the Univ. South Florida Atlas of Florida Plants)[9]

Description[edit]

Small branches with edgewise plates of bark

Size[edit]

Liquidambar styraciflua is a medium-sized to large tree, growing anywhere from 33–50 feet in cultivation and up to 150 feet in the wild state,[10] with a trunk up to 2–3 feet in diameter, on average.[11] Trees may live to 400 years.[12] The tree is a symmetrical shape and crowns into an egg shape when the branches get too heavy after its first two years of cultivation.[6]

Bark and branches[edit]

Another distinctive feature of the tree is the peculiar appearance of its small branches and twigs. The bark attaches itself to these in plates edgewise instead of laterally, and a piece of the leafless branch with the aid of a little imagination readily takes on a reptilian form; indeed, the tree is sometimes called Alligator-wood.[8] The bark is a light brown tinged with red and sometimes gray with dark streaks and weighs 37 lbs. per cubic foot.[11] It is deeply fissured with scaly ridges.[8] The branches carry layers of cork.[13] The branchlets are pithy, many-angled, winged, and at first covered with rusty hairs, finally becoming red brown, gray or dark brown.[8] As an ornamental tree, the species has a drawback—the branches may have ridges or "wings" that cause more surface area, increasing weight of snow and ice accumulation on the tree. However, the wood is heavy and hard with an interlocking grain,[6] but is difficult to season.[14]

Leaves[edit]

The leaves usually have five (but sometimes three or seven) sharply pointed palmate lobes.[10] They are 3-5 inches wide on average and have three distinct bundle scars.[15]

Summer foliage of Liquidambar styraciflua

They are long and broad, with a 6–10 cm petiole. The rich dark green, smooth, shiny, star-shaped leaves generally turn brilliant orange, red, and purple colors in the autumn.[6] This autumnal coloring has been characterized as not simply a flame, but a conflagration. Its reds and yellows compare to that of the maples (Acer), and in addition it has the dark purples and smoky browns of the ash (Fraxinus).[8] However, in the northern part of its range, and where planted in yet colder areas, the leaves are often killed by frost while still green. On the other hand, in the extreme southern or tropical parts of its range, some trees are evergreen or semi-evergreen, with negligible fall color. The leaves are three to seven inches broad with glandular serrate teeth. The base is truncate or slightly heart-shaped. They come out of the bud plicate, downy, pale green, when full grown are bright green, smooth, shining above, paler beneath.[8] They contain tannin and when bruised give a resinous fragrance.[14]

Autumn foliage of Liquidambar styraciflua

While the starry five-pointed leaves of Liquidambar resemble those of some maples (Acer), Liquidambar is easily distinguished from Acer by its glossy, leathery leaves that are positioned singly (alternate), not in pairs (opposite) on the stems. Luna and Promethea moth caterpillars feed on the leaves.[16]

Inflorescences[edit]

The male and female inflorescences are separate on the same tree.

The distinctive compound fruit is hard, dry, and globose, 1–1.5 inches in diameter, composed of numerous (40-60) capsules.[11] Each capsule, containing one to two small seeds, has a pair of terminal spikes (for a total of 80-120 spikes). When the fruit opens and the seeds are released, each capsule is associated with a small hole (40-60 of these) in the compound fruit.

Fruits of sweetgum

Fallen, opened fruits are often abundant beneath the trees; these have been popularly nicknamed "burr (or bir) balls",[12] "gum balls",[17] "space bugs", "monkey balls", "bommyknockers", "sticker balls",[18] or "Poink-a-pons".[citation needed]

The fruit is a multicapsular spherical head and hangs on the branches during the winter. The woody capsules are mostly filled with abortive seeds resembling sawdust.[8] The seeds are about one-quarter of an inch thick, winged, and wind-dispersed. Goldfinches, purple finches, squirrels, and chipmunks eat the seeds of the tree.[16] The seeds stratify within 30–90 days at 33°–41 °F or soaked in water for 15–20 days.[15] The long-stemmed fruit balls of Liquidambar resemble those of the American sycamore or buttonwood (Platanus occidentalis), but are spiny and remain intact after their seeds are dispersed; the softer fruits of Platanus disintegrate upon seed dispersal. The long-persisting fallen spiked fruits can be unpleasant to walk on; sweet gum is banned in some places for this reason.[12] In abundance, they can leave a lawn lumpy. The winter buds are yellow brown, one-fourth of an inch long, acute. The inner scales enlarge with the growing shoot, becoming half an inch long, green tipped with red.[8]

Flowers[edit]

Flower of sweetgum

The flowers typically appear in March to May and persist into Autumn, sometimes persisting into the Winter. They are typically about 1–1.5 inches in diameter and are covered with rusty hairs.[11] The flowers are unisexual[16] and greenish in color. Staminate flowers in terminal racemes two to three inches long, the pistillate in a solitary head on a slender peduncle borne in the axil of an upper leaf. Staminate flowers destitute of calyx and corolla, but are surrounded by hairy bracts. Stamens indefinite; filaments short; anthers introrse. Pistillate flowers with a two-celled, two-beaked ovary, the carpels produced into a long, recurved, persistent style. The ovaries all more or less cohere and harden in fruit. Ovules many but few mature.[8]

Uses[edit]

Wood[edit]

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is one of the most important commercial hardwoods in the Southeastern United States. Its wood is bright reddish brown (with the sapwood nearly white) and have black grain in the heartwood, it's heavy, straight, satiny, and close-grained, but not strong. It takes a beautiful polish, but warps badly in drying. The wood has a specific gravity of 0.5910. It is too liable to decay for outdoor use.[8]
In the carpentry industry, the timber is referred to as satin walnut[10] and is one of the most important materials for plywood manufacturers. It is used for furniture, interior trim, railroad ties, cigar boxes, crates, flooring, barrels, woodenware, and wood pulp.[19] It is also used for veneer for plywood. The wood is very compact and fine-grained, the heartwood being reddish, and, when cut into planks, marked transversely with blackish belts. Sweetgum is used principally for lumber, veneer, plywood, slack cooperage, fuel, and pulpwood. The lumber is made into boxes and crates, furniture, cabinets for radios, televisions, and phonographs, interior trim, and millwork. The veneer and plywood, (typically backed with some other kind of wood which shrinks and warps less) are used for boxes, pallets, crates, baskets, and interior woodwork. It was formerly used in the interior finish of railroad sleeping cars. Being readily dyed black, it is sometimes substituted for ebony for such uses as inexpensive picture frames.[8][20]

Resin[edit]

The tree's gum resin, for which the tree is named, exudes from the bark of the tree when wounded.[16] It has many names, including liquid amber or copalm balsam. It is a kind of native balsam, or resin, resembling turpentine. It may be clear, reddish, or yellow, with a pleasant smell like ambergris. As the resin ages, it solidifies, the form in which it was historically exported in barrels. The resin is produced by stripping, boiling, and pressing the tree's bark.[12] A similar resin, known as styrax, is produced from another species of Liquidambar, the oriental sweet gum, L. orientalis, of the eastern Mediterranean, especially Turkey, the original source of the chemical styrene from which the resin was reputed to be an excellent balsam for mollifying and consolidating,[citation needed] and good against such conditions as sciatica and weakness of the nerves.[citation needed] The Aztecs believed styrax to have medicinal properties;[12] mixed with tobacco, the gum was once used for smoking at the court of the Mexican emperors.[21] Styrax is still used to make chewing gum and also as an ingredient for the tobacco and perfume industry, including the making of perfumes and cosmetics. The styrax gum is also used medicinally to treat coughs, wounds, and dysentery.[16] In fact, the old-fashion Friar's basalm contains liquid styrax and is used as an inhalant in bronchial upsets.[10]

The hydrocarbon styrene is named for Levant styrax from the closely related species Liquidambar orentalis (Oriental sweetgum) of Turkey and adjacent areas, from which it was first isolated.[citation needed] Industrially produced styrene is now used to produce polystyrene plastics, including Styrofoam.

Shikimic acid[edit]

L. styraciflua seeds may be a renewable source of shikimic acid.[22]

Cultivation[edit]

A group of young sweetgum in autumn

Liquidambar styraciflua is a popular ornamental and forestal tree, cultivated for its distinctive foliage and intense autumn colors. It is commonly grown throughout its native North American range as well as many other temperate parts of the world. The species grows best in moist, acidic loam or clay soil, and tolerates poor drainage. It typically grows with other coastal plain species such as willow oak and sweetbay magnolia.[16] Its salt tolerance is moderate. Chlorosis can develop on alkaline soil, especially where organic matter is low. Also, the American sweetgum tree doesn't grow well in shady areas.[11]

Among the many cultivars of Liquidambar styraciflua are (those marked agm have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit):[citation needed]

  • Burgundy – dark red to purple fall colors may persist through winter
  • Clydesform – columnar or narrowly pyramidal; slow growth to 9 meters; yellow-orange fall colors; also sold as 'Emerald Sentinel'
  • Festival – columnar; pale green summer leaves; bright fall hues of yellow, pink and red; less hardy than most
  • Goduzam – variegated; pink to red-purple in fall; also called 'Gold Dust'
  • Grazam – pyramidal, with glossy leaves. Orange, red and purple fall colors
  • Gumball – dwarf shrubby cultivar seldom more than 6 feet (2 meters) tall, with purple-red fall color
  • Lane Roberts (agm)[23]
  • Moraine – upright, rounded form, fast growth, red fall color, hardy to −30 °C
  • Palo Alto – various shades of red in fall; best in California
  • Parasol – develops rounded crown; mature height 10 meters; deep red fall color
  • Rotundiloba – sterile cultivar with rounded lobes on leaves, originally discovered in North Carolina in the 1930s
  • Slender Silhouette – very narrow columnar form
  • Worplesdon (agm)[24] – cutleaf cultivar with orange, red and purple fall colors
Sweetgum (red) in a natural park

The organizers of the September 11th Memorial in New York donated a grove of sweet gum trees to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.[25]

Infection on Liquidambar styraciflua[edit]

The imperfect fungus Tubakia dryina Sutton is a leaf parasite reported to occur on a wide range of host plants, including species of Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua L.). Limber and Cash reported that leaf spots produced by this pathogen on several different genera of forest trees were 2–5 mm diameter with regular margins. During the summer of 1994 in the Nacogdoches County area of Texas, a prominent leaf spot on Sweet Gum was widespread. Infected leaves had numerous necrotic lesions, each surrounded by a reddish halo. The lesions tended to merge resulting in large areas of dead tissue. Infection and fungal development of T. dryina were investigated on leaves of sweet gum using a combination of microscopic techniques. T. dryina infection on Sweet Gum has been associated with the disease red leaf spot. Results of this investigation indicate that T. dryina can penetrate leaf tissue directly, thus having the ability to initiate infection on both upper and lower leaf surfaces. In other regions of the U.S., Sweet Gum populations may not be as susceptible to local populations of this fungus. Environmental stress factors may also be involved, as reports have indicated that herbicide application and chlorosis caused by iron deficiency may increase susceptibility of T. dryina. Tannins (a type of biomolecule found in trees to protect it from fire, insects, and bacteria) have been reported to occur in healthy tissue of a variety of plants including sweet gum. They may prevent pathogen invasion by inhibiting fungal enzyme activity. Although cells of healthy sweet gum tissue appear rich in tannins, these materials apparently were not effective in preventing fungal colonization by T. dryina.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "USDA GRIN taxonomy". 
  2. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  3. ^ http://www.wordreference.com/enit/hazel%20pine%20%5BLiquidambar%20styraciflua%5D%20%5BAmerican%20sweetgum%5D
  4. ^ a b Small, J.K. (1933). Manual of the southeastern flora: being descriptions of the seed plants growing naturally in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, eastern Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-02-852410-1. 
  5. ^ Cafferty, Steve. "Taxonomy". Encyclopedia of Life. Natural History Museum. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Grimm, William (1967). Familiar Trees of America. New York: Harper & Row. pp. 153–154. 
  7. ^ a b Werthner, William B. (1935). Some American Trees: An intimate study of native Ohio trees. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. xviii + 398 pp. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles hi Scriber's Sons. pp. 160–164. 
  9. ^ http://www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3559
  10. ^ a b c d Cafferty, Steve (2005). Firefly Encyclopedia of Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly. pp. 116–117. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Illick, Joseph (1928). Pennsylvania Trees. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters. pp. 168–169. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "Liquidambar styraciflua: American sweet gum". Cal Poly Plant Conservatory. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  13. ^ "Liquidambar styraciflua", The Macquarie Dictionary of Trees and Shrubs (South Yarra: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd.) 
  14. ^ a b New-Hall, Charles (1890). The Trees of North-eastern America. New York: Knickerbocker. pp. 130–131. 
  15. ^ a b Leopold, Donald (1998). Trees of the Central Hardwood Forests of North America: An Identification and Cultivation Guide. Portland, Oregon: Timber. pp. 235–237. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f Rhoads, Ann (2005). Trees of Pennsylvania: A Complete Reference Guide. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. 
  17. ^ Missouri Botanical Garden: Liquidambar styraciflua
  18. ^ US National Arboretum
  19. ^ "Sweetgum", McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (New York: McGraw-Hill) 
  20. ^ Kormanik, Paul P. "Liquidambar styraciflua L. – Sweetgum" from Silvics of North America: Volume 2:Hardwoods. Agriculture Handbook 654. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, D.C. 1965
  21. ^ Schwartz, Ed. "Victors and Vanquished" p. 143 Cortez and his captains smoke liquidambar mixed with tobacco with Montezuma after they feast
  22. ^ Liquidambar styraciflua: a renewable source of shikimic acid. Liza B. Enrich, Margaret L. Scheuermann, Ashley Mohadjer, Kathryn R. Matthias, Chrystal F. Eller, M. Scott Newman, Michael Fujinaka and Thomas Poon, Tetrahedron Letters, 2008, volume 49, pages 2503–2505, doi:10.1016/j.tetlet.2008.02.140
  23. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Liquidambar styraciflua 'Lane Roberts'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  24. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Liquidambar styraciflua 'Worplesdon'". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  25. ^ Moore, Martha. "Flight 93 Memorial Still $10M Short on Funds". USA Today. Gannett Co., Inc. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  26. ^ Taylor, Josephine; Shane Clark (July–August 1996). "Infection and Fungal Development of Tubakia dryina on Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)". Mycologia. Search Wise 88 (4): 613–618. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "article name needed". Cyclopaedia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al. 


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The leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua , fragrant when bruised, turn deep red to crimson in autumn. Although leaf variation is common in L . styraciflua , this deviation is randomly distributed and without any definable geographic correlation. Liquidambar styraciflua is often cultivated; a number of cultivars have been introduced in cultivation. 

 Liquidambar styraciflua was well known as a medicinal plant by Native Americans. Cherokee, Choctaw, Houma, Koasati, and Rappahannock tribes used it in various ways, especially the gum, bark, and root, as an antidiarrheal, dermatological aid, gynecological aid, sedative, febrifuge, and for related uses (D. E. Moerman 1986).

Liquidambar styraciflua produces a balsamic oleo-resin called American styrax or storax, a thick, clear, brownish yellow, semisolid or solid with a pronounced aromatic odor. It is chewed as a sweet, natural gum. The balsam is collected from the inner bark of the tree after wounding or deliberate gashing. It is used in soaps and cosmetics, as a fixative in perfumes, adhesives, lacquers, and incense, and as a flavoring in tobacco. The wood is used for cabinet making, furniture, veneer, interior finish, barrels, and wooden dishes. Medicinally the gum has been used for catarrh, coughs, dysentery, sores, and wounds of both humans and domestic animals.

The largest known tree of Liquidambar styraciflua , 41.4 m in height with a trunk diameter of 2.25 m, is recorded from Craven County, North Carolina (American Forestry Association 1994).

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

sweetgum
redgum
sapgum
star-leaf gum
blisted
satin-walnut
white gum
alligator-tree
opossum-tree
gum-wood
copalm balsam

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The currently accepted scientific name for sweetgum is Liquidambar
styraciflua L. [30]. Two forms of sweetgum are recognized in
horticulture. The round-lobed American sweetgum, L. styraciflua forma
rotundiloba Rehd., has three to five short, rounded lobes on the leaves.
Weeping American sweetgum, L. styraciflua forma pendula Rehd., has
pendulous branches forming an almost columnar head [44,45]. There are no
recognized subspecies or varieties.
  • 44. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
  • 45. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 30. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]

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