Autumn colors of Sweetgum
Liquidambar styraciflua
Hamamelidaceae (Witch-Hazel) Family
Also known as Redgum and Sapgum

Sweetgum in a large tree with straight trunk and conical crown that becomes round and spreading with age. Height is upward to 100 feet and trunk diameter may be three feet. Preferred habitat is moist soils of valleys and lower slopes in mixed woodlands. The young trees are usually the first to appear on clearings after logging operations have ceased. Distribution is throughout the Escambia River region.

Leaves are star-shaped and about six inches long and equally as wide. Leaf stalks are slender and nearly as long as the leaf blade; shiny dark green above, turning gold or red in autumn.

Flowers are tiny and in a ball-like cluster. Female flowers are in drooping clusters and male flowers are in small clusters along the stalk. The Sweetgum ball is green in the spring and turns brown in autumn.

Fruit is a small seed that is enclosed inside the brown ball, each seed ending in two long and curved prickly points. When the seed is mature the points separate and a seed bearing two wing-like structures falls into the wind and is carried to new territories.

Sweetgum is an important timber tree. The woods are used for making furniture and cabinetworks, veneer and plywood, as well as for pulpwood. The resin-like gum is used to flavor medicines, perfumes and chewing gum.

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