Sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua
Witchhazel Family (Hamamelidaceae)
Sweetgum is native throughout Kentucky, except the Bluegrass. It grows in moist flat areas in association with pin oak or sycamore. The Kentucky champion tree is in Henderson County and is over 70 feet tall.
- Native habitat: Southern and eastern U.S. and parts of the central U.S.
- Growth habit: Pyramidal when young. At maturity, the crown is oval to rounded.
- Tree size: Grows fast in moist soil, slower in dry soil. Can reach a height of 60 to 75 feet with a spread of at least two-thirds the height at maturity; can reach 120 feet tall in the wild.
- Flower and fruit: While its flowers are insignificant, the fruit of sweetgum is a defining feature - clusters of long-stemmed, spiked balls persist through winter.
- Leaf: Starfish-shaped, glossy leaves, bright green with a sweet smell. On a single tree, leaves may be yellow, red and purple in fall.
- Hardiness: Winter hardy to USDA Zone 5.
There are many cultivars of sweetgum, but only a few are commercially important. Winter hardiness can be a problem with some cultivars.
- ‘Brotzman #1' - Selected for its corky bark and winter hardiness.
- Burgundy™ - Good red to purple fall color, but may not be as winter hardy as the species.
- ‘Gold Star' - Variegated form of sweetgum with splotches of yellow over green.
- ‘Gumball' - A multistemmed, slow-growing selection with an oval shape. Shrub-like habit.
- ‘Oconee' - Is similar to ‘Gumball,' but it has a more rounded habit and better fall color.
- ‘Rotundiloba' - Leaves of this fruitless cultivar are lobed rather than pointed. This is the most commercially important selection of sweetgum.