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Liquidambar styraciflua
Liquidambar styraciflua

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Zones 3-9, 14-24
Full Sun
Regular Water


Sweet Gum
Deciduous, Trees

Valuable for form, foliage, fall color, easy culture. Moderate growth rate. Young and middle-aged trees are generally upright, somewhat cone shaped; older ones have a more spreading habit. Lobed, maplelike leaves. Flowers are inconspicuous; fruits are spiny balls that ornament the trees in winter and must be raked up throughout the year.

Liquidambar styraciflua (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Liquidambar styraciflua (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Liquidambar styraciflua

Native to the Eastern United States, this tree grows to about 60 ft. tall in gardens, but to much taller in the wild. It is narrow and erect in youth, with lower limbs eventually spreading to 20–25 ft. Good looking all year, and delivers spectacular red, orange, and purple late-fall color even in mild-winter areas. Branching pattern, furrowed bark, and corky wings on twigs all provide winter interest, as do hanging seedpods: 1 1/2-in., spiky spheres reminiscent of tiny medieval maces. On mature trees, seedpods are profuse enough to cause a litter problem (especially on lawns, where they interfere with mowing), and they’re painful to walk on in bare feet. Tolerates damp soil; resists oak root fungus.

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