Liquidambar styraciflua

Secondary Names:
red gum

Leaf Type: Deciduous
Texas Native:
Tree Description:

A large forest tree to 100 feet tall or more and a straight trunk to 3 feet or more in diameter, with a conical shape when young and an upright, broad crown on older trees.

Range/Site Description:

Occurs in East Texas on rich riverbottom soils, in swamps subject to frequent flooding, and dry uplands, as far west as the San Jacinto river basin.


Simple, alternate, star-shaped, 4" to 7" long and wide, with 5 to 7 pointed lobes and a finely-toothed leaf margin. Leaves are aromatic when crushed and turn brilliant colors of yellow, orange, red, and purple in the fall.


Male and female flowers are borne separately on the same tree, opening with the leaves; male flowers are small, greenish, inconspicuous; the female flowers are small round heads on a long stalk.


A composite fruit shaped like a spiked ball, 1" to 1.5" in diameter, on a long stalk, made up of many capsules enclosing the seeds. Fruits hangs on the twigs late into winter.


Twigs are reddish-brown and sometimes have corky wings; bark is light gray, turning rough with rounded, corky ridges that develop into broader plates and deep furrows on older trunks.


Moderately hard, close-grained, and not durable on exposure; wood is extensively used for flooring, railroad ties, paper pulp, and veneers for baskets of all kinds; also available as a landscape specimen.

Similar Species:

Maple species (Acer spp.) all have smaller leaves and winged fruits; American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) has larger leaves with shallow lobes and unique peeling bark.

Interesting Facts:

In rural areas, children made bubble gum by combining sweetgum sap with other local fruits.

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