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Liquidambar styraciflua, or Sweetgum, is a large. valuable, forest tree frequently found in wet river bottoms, in swamps that frequently flood, and on drier uplands (except the high mountains) throughout North Carolina. It is often the bane of some homeowner’s existence because of its troublesome fruit.
Liquidambar styraciflua is a medium-sized to large tree, growing anywhere from 15–20 m (50–70 ft) in cultivation and up to 45 m (150 ft) in the wild, with a trunk up 60–90 cm (2–3 ft) in diameter, on average. Trees may live to 400 years.
Liquidambar styraciflua, commonly called sweet gum, is a low-maintenance deciduous shade tree that is native from Connecticut to Florida and Missouri further south to Texas, Mexico and Central America. In Missouri, it typically occurs in moist low woods and along streams only in the far southeastern corner of the state (Steyermark).
- Life History
- Special Uses
- Literature Cited
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.
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 3...
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 Ca...
Reproduction and Early Growth
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 Sept...
Sapling and Pole Stages to Maturity
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 m...
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).
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).Baker, Whiteford L. 1972. Eastern forest insects. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication 1175. Washington, DC. 642 p.Belanger, R. P., and R. G. McAlpine. 1975. Survival and early growth of planted sweetgum related to root-collar diameter. Tree Planters'Notes 26:1, 21.Berry, C. R. 1981. Sewage sludge aids reclamation of disturbed forest land in the Southeast. p. 307-316. In Proceedings, Utilization of Municipal Waste Water and Sludge for Land Reclamation and Bio...DeBell, D. S., 0. G. Langdon, and J. Stubbs. 1968. Reproducing mixed hardwoods by a seed-tree cutting in the Carolina Coastal Plain. Southern Lumberman 217:121-123.
Liquidambar styraciflua Figure 1. Young Sweetgum. Sweetgum1 Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2 INTRODUCTION Sweetgum grows in a narrow pyramid to a height of 75 feet and may spread to 50 feet (Fig. 1). The beautifully glossy, star-shaped leaves turn bright red, purple, yellow or orange in the fall (USDA hardiness
Liquidambar styraciflua is known as a pyramidal and rapidly growing shade tree in youth, becoming open and spreading in growth habit with age, and having shiny dark-green Summer foliage that changes to a mixed or crimson fall color, but also having fruits that create a litter problem with age. Its wood is also harvested for use in furniture and ...